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  • Soldiers Demolish Children’s Park, Wells, And Uproot Trees In Natural Reserve
    July 3, 2019 – IMEMC News
    https://imemc.org/article/soldiers-demolish-childrens-park-wells-and-uproot-trees-in-natural-reserve

    Israeli soldiers invaded, Wednesday, a natural reserve area in the villages of Khashm ad-Daraj and Um el-Kheir, east of Yatta town, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and demolished a children’s park, in addition to uprooting trees and demolishing water wells.

    Ibrahim Eid al-Hathalin, the head of Khashm ad-Daraj village council, said dozens of soldiers invaded the area, before demolishing a children’s park, used by dozens of families.

    He added that the soldiers also demolished several water wells, in addition to uprooting evergreens and other trees in the natural reserve.

    The Israeli army claimed that the invaded lands, and the uprooted trees, are in an area “designated for military training.”

    #colonisation_de_peuplement

  • Feu sur la liberté d’expression en Europe
    dimanche 30 juin 2019 par Coordination nationale de l’UJFP
    http://www.ujfp.org/spip.php?article7264

    Il aura fallu que Yossi Bartal, guide au musée juif de Berlin, démissionne pour qu’apparaissent toutes les manœuvres de l’État d’Israël, toutes ses compromissions aussi.

    La démission de Yossi Bartal(1) se produit huit jours après celle du Directeur du musée, Peter Schäfer (2).

    Peter Schäfer avait protesté avec 240 intellectuels juifs (dont Avraham Burg et Eva Illouz) pour s’opposer à une motion du Parlement allemand qui considérait le mouvement BDS comme antisémite. Il a été directement attaqué par l’ambassadeur d’Israël, Jeremy Issacharoff et Josef Schuster, directeur de l’équivalent du Crif allemand qui n’ont pas hésité à utiliser des « fake news » pour le salir.

    L’année dernière déjà le budget d’une exposition consacrée à Jérusalem, montrant aussi son versant palestinien a été divisé par 2 à la suite d’une intervention de Benjamin Netanyahou (qui réclamait l’annulation totale du budget). De son côté, Josef Schuster avait critiqué le fait que la majorité des employés du musée n’étaient pas juifs. Et les détracteurs de la liberté d’esprit du musée sont soutenus par l’ALD, le parti d’extrême droite…

    Un panier de crabe insoupçonné que nous révèle son (ex) guide. (...)

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    (1) Opinion Why I Resigned From Berlin’s Jewish Museum
    Yossi Bartal - Jun 22, 2019 9:39 AM
    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/why-i-resigned-from-berlin-s-jewish-museum-1.7398301

    Last Monday, after guiding hundreds of different tour groups from Germany and around the world to various exhibitions, I submitted my resignation as a guide at the Jewish Museum of Berlin in protest against the crass political intervention by the German government and the State of Israel in the work of the museum.

    The shameful firing of Peter Schäfer, among the most important scholars of Judaism in the world, in the wake of an aggressive campaign of “fake news” conducted by the Israeli Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, and Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, made it clear that the German government is not interested any more in guarding the artistic and academic autonomy of the museum. And I am not interested in working for an institution that relinquishes its independence to serve the political interests of this or that state.

    From the beginning, working as a Jewish guide at a Jewish museum where most of the staff and visitors are not Jews presented personal, political and pedagogical challenges. Thus questions of representation of the other and of speaking in their name have accompanied the work of the museum since its opening in 2003.

    Is it appropriate for a German state museum to be called a Jewish museum at all, or must it be under the complete control of the official Jewish community (that itself only represents part of German Jewry)? Is a Jewish museum, in the absence of a similar institution addressing the Muslim community or other minority groups, responsible for providing space for the perspectives of children of migrants in Germany, many of whom live in neighborhoods nearby, and for conducting Jewish-Muslim dialogue?

    Should the museum function as a forum in which various opinions in the Jewish world can be heard, those touching on Israel as well? The answer of the head of the Jewish community, the Israeli ambassador and right-wing journalists, who for years have been running a toxic and untruthful campaign against museum staff, is an absolute no.

    Thus a significant portion of the criticism of the museum suggests, or even declares openly, that the very fact that many of the staff members of the museum are not Jews negates their right to social activism that is not in keeping with the political preferences of the Jewish community’s representatives. This discourse reached the point of absurdity when Schuster, the leader of a community in which many members are not considered Jewish according to halakha, negated the museum’s right to call itself Jewish.

    But we should not be confused by the legitimate criticism over the lack of Jewish representation in leading positions in Germany, because this criticism is raised only when non-Jews dare, even in the most sensitive way, to criticize policies of the Israeli government, or to come out against anti-Muslim racism. Proof of this may be seen in the Jewish community’s support for the 10 officials who have been nominated to fight anti-Semitism in the country: All 10 are non-Jews, and all 10 support the position that strong criticism of the occupation and of Israel’s religiously discriminatory character should be seen as an expression of anti-Semitism.

    Not surprisingly, the extreme right-wing “Alternative for Germany” is the party that, by way of parliamentary questions, has been leading the campaign against the museum for the last year, as reported sympathetically by the house newspaper of Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite the Israeli Embassy’s contention that it is not in contact with members of the party, its opposition to museum activities is based on a fervent rejection of democratic discourse, and its absolute conflation of the interests of the Israeli government with those of world Jewry. Already in the past year, as part of an exhibition on Jerusalem and its significance to three religions, the museum was forced to cancel a lecture on the status of LGBTQ Palestinians in East Jerusalem because the Israeli ambassador suspected that the speaker, God help us, supports BDS.

    Accusations of anti-Semitism, which carry enormous weight in Germany, lead more and more to censorship and self-censorship. Cultural institutions in Germany, which are supposed to provide a stage for critical positions, are threatened financially and politically if they even dare to host artists and musicians who at any time expressed support for non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation. This policy of fear-mongering that Miri Regev leads in Israel is imported by supporters of Israel to Germany. Only in Germany, because of its great sensitivity to anti-Semitism and deep identification with Israel in the wake of the Shoah, are there politicians not only on the right but on the left as well who vehemently endorse the silencing of criticism of Israel.

    The extreme right’s ascendance to power in places across the globe is based in great part on the constriction of democratic space and the intimidation and sanctioning of anyone who dares to oppose suppressive nationalist policies. The efforts of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and the Foreign Ministry, in cooperation with Jewish and right-wing organizations around the world, to defame and slander anyone who refuses to join their campaign of incitement against human rights activists, has now led to the firing of an esteemed scholar, strictly because he chose to defend the rights of Israeli academics to oppose the designation of the BDS movement as an anti-Semitic movement.

    Against this paranoid impulse toward purges, which to a great extent recalls the years of McCarthyism in the United States, one must take a clear public stance. If the firing of Peter Schäfer has a moral, it is that no matter how much approbation a person has received for his opposition to anti-Semitism and support for Israel, opposition to Netanyahu’s anti-democratic policies is enough to turn him into an enemy of the people and the nation.

    If the German and Israeli governments are interested in the Jewish Museum representing only their narrow political interests and denying its staff members freedom of expression, I am not interested in having a part in it. So despite my deep respect for the museum’s staff, I proffered my resignation. I and many other Jews of my generation do not want or need a kashrut certificate from the State of Israel or the heads of the institutional Jewish community, nor, certainly, from the German government. Judaism, as a pluralistic and democratic world culture, will continue to exist after the racist, ultra-nationalist politics that has taken over many communal institutions passes from the world.

    The writer has lived in Berlin for 13 years and works as a tour guide.

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    (2) https://seenthis.net/messages/788398

  • Beyond the Hype of Lab-Grown Diamonds
    https://earther.gizmodo.com/beyond-the-hype-of-lab-grown-diamonds-1834890351

    Billions of years ago when the world was still young, treasure began forming deep underground. As the edges of Earth’s tectonic plates plunged down into the upper mantle, bits of carbon, some likely hailing from long-dead life forms were melted and compressed into rigid lattices. Over millions of years, those lattices grew into the most durable, dazzling gems the planet had ever cooked up. And every so often, for reasons scientists still don’t fully understand, an eruption would send a stash of these stones rocketing to the surface inside a bubbly magma known as kimberlite.

    There, the diamonds would remain, nestled in the kimberlite volcanoes that delivered them from their fiery home, until humans evolved, learned of their existence, and began to dig them up.

    The epic origin of Earth’s diamonds has helped fuel a powerful marketing mythology around them: that they are objects of otherworldly strength and beauty; fitting symbols of eternal love. But while “diamonds are forever” may be the catchiest advertising slogan ever to bear some geologic truth, the supply of these stones in the Earth’s crust, in places we can readily reach them, is far from everlasting. And the scars we’ve inflicted on the land and ourselves in order to mine diamonds has cast a shadow that still lingers over the industry.

    Some diamond seekers, however, say we don’t need to scour the Earth any longer, because science now offers an alternative: diamonds grown in labs. These gems aren’t simulants or synthetic substitutes; they are optically, chemically, and physically identical to their Earth-mined counterparts. They’re also cheaper, and in theory, limitless. The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has rocked the jewelry world to its core and prompted fierce pushback from diamond miners. Claims abound on both sides.

    Growers often say that their diamonds are sustainable and ethical; miners and their industry allies counter that only gems plucked from the Earth can be considered “real” or “precious.” Some of these assertions are subjective, others are supported only by sparse, self-reported, or industry-backed data. But that’s not stopping everyone from making them.

    This is a fight over image, and when it comes to diamonds, image is everything.
    A variety of cut, polished Ada Diamonds created in a lab, including smaller melee stones and large center stones. 22.94 carats total. (2.60 ct. pear, 2.01 ct. asscher, 2.23 ct. cushion, 3.01 ct. radiant, 1.74 ct. princess, 2.11 ct. emerald, 3.11 ct. heart, 3.00 ct. oval, 3.13 ct. round.)
    Image: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Same, but different

    The dream of lab-grown diamond dates back over a century. In 1911, science fiction author H.G. Wells described what would essentially become one of the key methods for making diamond—recreating the conditions inside Earth’s mantle on its surface—in his short story The Diamond Maker. As the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) notes, there were a handful of dubious attempts to create diamonds in labs in the late 19th and early 20th century, but the first commercial diamond production wouldn’t emerge until the mid-1950s, when scientists with General Electric worked out a method for creating small, brown stones. Others, including De Beers, soon developed their own methods for synthesizing the gems, and use of the lab-created diamond in industrial applications, from cutting tools to high power electronics, took off.

    According to the GIA’s James Shigley, the first experimental production of gem-quality diamond occurred in 1970. Yet by the early 2000s, gem-quality stones were still small, and often tinted yellow with impurities. It was only in the last five or so years that methods for growing diamonds advanced to the point that producers began churning out large, colorless stones consistently. That’s when the jewelry sector began to take a real interest.

    Today, that sector is taking off. The International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), a trade group formed in 2016 by a dozen lab diamond growers and sellers, now has about 50 members, according to IGDA secretary general Dick Garard. When the IGDA first formed, lab-grown diamonds were estimated to represent about 1 percent of a $14 billion rough diamond market. This year, industry analyst Paul Zimnisky estimates they account for 2-3 percent of the market.

    He expects that share will only continue to grow as factories in China that already produce millions of carats a year for industrial purposes start to see an opportunity in jewelry.
    “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not.”

    “This year some [factories] will come up from 100,000 gem-quality diamonds to one to two million,” Zimnisky said. “They already have the infrastructure and equipment in place” and are in the process of upgrading it. (About 150 million carats of diamonds were mined last year, according to a global analysis of the industry conducted by Bain & Company.)

    Production ramp-up aside, 2018 saw some other major developments across the industry. In the summer, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reversed decades of guidance when it expanded the definition of a diamond to include those created in labs and dropped ‘synthetic’ as a recommended descriptor for lab-grown stones. The decision came on the heels of the world’s top diamond producer, De Beers, announcing the launch of its own lab-grown diamond line, Lightbox, after having once vowed never to sell man-made stones as jewelry.

    “I would say shock,” Lightbox Chief Marketing Officer Sally Morrison told Earther when asked how the jewelry world responded to the company’s launch.

    While the majority of lab-grown diamonds on the market today are what’s known as melee (less than 0.18 carats), the tech for producing the biggest, most dazzling diamonds continues to improve. In 2016, lab-grown diamond company MiaDonna announced its partners had grown a 6.28 carat gem-quality diamond, claimed to be the largest created in the U.S. to that point. In 2017, a lab in Augsburg University, Germany that grows diamonds for industrial and scientific research applications produced what is thought to be the largest lab-grown diamond ever—a 155 carat behemoth that stretches nearly 4 inches across. Not gem quality, perhaps, but still impressive.

    “If you compare it with the Queen’s diamond, hers is four times heavier, it’s clearer” physicist Matthias Schreck, who leads the group that grew that beast of a jewel, told me. “But in area, our diamond is bigger. We were very proud of this.”

    Diamonds can be created in one of two ways: Similar to how they form inside the Earth, or similar to how scientists speculate they might form in outer space.

    The older, Earth-inspired method is known as “high temperature high pressure” (HPHT), and that’s exactly what it sounds like. A carbon source, like graphite, is placed in a giant, mechanical press where, in the presence of a catalyst, it’s subjected to temperatures of around 1,600 degrees Celsius and pressures of 5-6 Gigapascals in order to form diamond. (If you’re curious what that sort of pressure feels like, the GIA describes it as similar to the force exerted if you tried to balance a commercial jet on your fingertip.)

    The newer method, called chemical vapor deposition (CVD), is more akin to how diamonds might form in interstellar gas clouds (for which we have indirect, spectroscopic evidence, according to Shigley). A hydrocarbon gas, like methane, is pumped into a low-pressure reactor vessel alongside hydrogen. While maintaining near-vacuum conditions, the gases are heated very hot—typically 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius, according to Lightbox CEO Steve Coe—causing carbon atoms to break free of their molecular bonds. Under the right conditions, those liberated bits of carbon will settle out onto a substrate—typically a flat, square plate of a synthetic diamond produced with the HPHT method—forming layer upon layer of diamond.

    “It’s like snow falling on a table on your back porch,” Jason Payne, the founder and CEO of lab-grown diamond jewelry company Ada Diamonds, told me.

    Scientists have been forging gem-quality diamonds with HPHT for longer, but today, CVD has become the method of choice for those selling larger bridal stones. That’s in part because it’s easier to control impurities and make diamonds with very high clarity, according to Coe. Still, each method has its advantages—Payne said that HPHT is faster and the diamonds typically have better color (which is to say, less of it)—and some companies, like Ada, purchase stones grown in both ways.

    However they’re made, lab-grown diamonds have the same exceptional hardness, stiffness, and thermal conductivity as their Earth-mined counterparts. Cut, they can dazzle with the same brilliance and fire—a technical term to describe how well the diamond scatters light like a prism. The GIA even grades them according to the same 4Cs—cut, clarity, color, and carat—that gemologists use to assess diamonds formed in the Earth, although it uses a slightly different terminology to report the color and clarity grades for lab-grown stones.

    They’re so similar, in fact, that lab-grown diamond entering the larger diamond supply without any disclosures has become a major concern across the jewelry industry, particularly when it comes to melee stones from Asia. It’s something major retailers are now investing thousands of dollars in sophisticated detection equipment to suss out by searching for minute differences in, say, their crystal shape or for impurities like nitrogen (much less common in lab-grown diamond, according to Shigley).

    Those differences may be a lifeline for retailers hoping to weed out lab-grown diamonds, but for companies focused on them, they can become another selling point. The lack of nitrogen in diamonds produced with the CVD method, for instance, gives them an exceptional chemical purity that allows them to be classified as type IIa; a rare and coveted breed that accounts for just 2 percent of those found in nature. Meanwhile, the ability to control everything about the growth process allows companies like Lightbox to adjust the formula and produce incredibly rare blue and pink diamonds as part of their standard product line. (In fact, these colored gemstones have made up over half of the company’s sales since launch, according to Coe.)

    And while lab-grown diamonds boast the same sparkle as their Earthly counterparts, they do so at a significant discount. Zimnisky said that today, your typical one carat, medium quality diamond grown in a lab will sell for about $3,600, compared with $6,100 for its Earth-mined counterpart—a discount of about 40 percent. Two years ago, that discount was only 18 percent. And while the price drop has “slightly tapered off” as Zimnisky put it, he expects it will fall further thanks in part to the aforementioned ramp up in Chinese production, as well as technological improvements. (The market is also shifting in response to Lightbox, which De Beers is using to position lab-grown diamonds as mass produced items for fashion jewelry, and which is selling its stones, ungraded, at the controversial low price of $800 per carat—a discount of nearly 90 percent.)

    Zimnisky said that if the price falls too fast, it could devalue lab-grown diamonds in the eyes of consumers. But for now, at least, paying less seems to be a selling point. A 2018 consumer research survey by MVI Marketing found that most of those polled would choose a larger lab-grown diamond over a smaller mined diamond of the same price.

    “The thing [consumers] seem most compelled by is the ability to trade up in size and quality at the same price,” Garard of IGDA said.

    Still, for buyers and sellers alike, price is only part of the story. Many in the lab-grown diamond world market their product as an ethical or eco-friendly alternative to mined diamonds.

    But those sales pitches aren’t without controversy.
    A variety of lab-grown diamond products arrayed on a desk at Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan. The stone in the upper left gets its blue color from boron. Diamonds tinted yellow (top center) usually get their color from small amounts of nitrogen.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Dazzling promises

    As Anna-Mieke Anderson tells it, she didn’t enter the diamond world to become a corporate tycoon. She did it to try and fix a mistake.

    In 1999, Anderson purchased herself a diamond. Some years later, in 2005, her father asked her where it came from. Nonplussed, she told him it came from the jewelry store. But that wasn’t what he was asking: He wanted to know where it really came from.

    “I actually had no idea,” Anderson told Earther. “That led me to do a mountain of research.”

    That research eventually led Anderson to conclude that she had likely bought a diamond mined under horrific conditions. She couldn’t be sure, because the certificate of purchase included no place of origin. But around the time of her purchase, civil wars funded by diamond mining were raging across Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, fueling “widespread devastation” as Global Witness put it in 2006. At the height of the diamond wars in the late ‘90s, the watchdog group estimates that as many as 15 percent of diamonds entering the market were conflict diamonds. Even those that weren’t actively fueling a war were often being mined in dirty, hazardous conditions; sometimes by children.

    “I couldn’t believe I’d bought into this,” Anderson said.

    To try and set things right, Anderson began sponsoring a boy living in a Liberian community impacted by the blood diamond trade. The experience was so eye-opening, she says, that she eventually felt compelled to sponsor more children. Selling conflict-free jewelry seemed like a fitting way to raise money to do so, but after a great deal more research, Anderson decided she couldn’t in good faith consider any diamond pulled from the Earth to be truly conflict-free in either the humanitarian or environmental sense. While diamond miners were, by the early 2000s, getting their gems certified “conflict free” according to the UN-backed Kimberley Process, the certification scheme’s definition of a conflict diamond—one sold by rebel groups to finance armed conflicts against governments—felt far too narrow.

    “That [conflict definition] eliminates anything to do with the environment, or eliminates a child mining it, or someone who was a slave, or beaten, or raped,” Anderson said.

    And so she started looking into science, and in 2007, launching MiaDonna as one of the world’s first lab-grown diamond jewelry companies. The business has been activism-oriented from the get-go, with at least five percent of its annual earnings—and more than 20 percent for the last three years—going into The Greener Diamond, Anderson’s charity foundation which has funded a wide range of projects, from training former child soldiers in Sierra Leone to grow food to sponsoring kids orphaned by the West African Ebola outbreak.

    MiaDonna isn’t the only company that positions itself as an ethical alternative to the traditional diamond industry. Brilliant Earth, which sells what it says are carefully-sourced mined and lab-created diamonds, also donates a small portion of its profits to supporting mining communities. Other lab-grown diamond companies market themselves as “ethical,” “conflict-free,” or “world positive.” Payne of Ada Diamonds sees, in lab-grown diamonds, not just shiny baubles, but a potential to improve medicine, clean up pollution, and advance society in countless other ways—and he thinks the growing interest in lab-grown diamond jewelry will help propel us toward that future.

    Others, however, say black-and-white characterizations when it comes to social impact of mined diamonds versus lab-grown stones are unfair. “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not,” Estelle Levin-Nally, founder and CEO of Levin Sources, which advocates for better governance in the mining sector, told Earther. “I think it’s always about your politics. And ethics are subjective.”

    Saleem Ali, an environmental researcher at the University of Delaware who serves on the board of the Diamonds and Development Initiative, agrees. He says the mining industry has, on the whole, worked hard to turn itself around since the height of the diamond wars and that governance is “much better today” than it used to be. Human rights watchdog Global Witness also says that “significant progress” has been made to curb the conflict diamond trade, although as Alice Harle, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness told Earther via email, diamonds do still fuel conflict, particularly in the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe.

    Most industry observers seems to agree that the Kimberley Process is outdated and inadequate, and that more work is needed to stamp out other abuses, including child labor and forced labor, in the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining sector. Today, large-scale mining operations don’t tend to see these kinds of problems, according to Julianne Kippenberg, associate director for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, but she notes that there may be other community impacts surrounding land rights and forced resettlement.

    The flip side, Ali and Levin-Nally say, is that well-regulated mining operations can be an important source of economic development and livelihood. Ali cites Botswana and Russia as prime examples of places where large-scale mining operations have become “major contributors to the economy.” Dmitry Amelkin, head of strategic projects and analytics for Russian diamond mining giant Alrosa, echoed that sentiment in an email to Earther, noting that diamonds transformed Botswana “from one of the poorest [countries] in the world to a middle-income country” with revenues from mining representing almost a third of its GDP.

    In May, a report commissioned by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), a trade organization representing the world’s largest diamond mining companies, estimated that worldwide, its members generate nearly $4 billion in direct revenue for employees and contractors, along with another $6.8 billion in benefits via “local procurement of goods and services.” DPA CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr said this was a story diamond miners need to do a better job telling.

    “The industry has undergone such changes since the Blood Diamond movie,” he said, referring to the blockbuster 2006 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio that drew global attention to the problem of conflict diamonds. “And yet people’s’ perceptions haven’t evolved. I think the main reason is we have not had a voice, we haven’t communicated.”

    But conflict and human rights abuses aren’t the only issues that have plagued the diamond industry. There’s also the lasting environmental impact of the mining itself. In the case of large-scale commercial mines, this typically entails using heavy machinery and explosives to bore deep into those kimberlite tubes in search of precious stones.

    Some, like Maya Koplyova, a geologist at the University of British Columbia who studies diamonds and the rocks they’re found in, see this as far better than many other forms of mining. “The environmental footprint is the fThere’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.” ootprint of digging the hole in the ground and crushing [the rock],” Koplyova said, noting that there’s no need to add strong acids or heavy metals like arsenic (used in gold mining) to liberate the gems.

    Still, those holes can be enormous. The Mir Mine, a now-abandoned open pit mine in Eastern Siberia, is so large—reportedly stretching 3,900 feet across and 1,700 feet deep—that the Russian government has declared it a no-fly zone owing to the pit’s ability to create dangerous air currents. It’s visible from space.

    While companies will often rehabilitate other land to offset the impact of mines, kimberlite mining itself typically leaves “a permanent dent in the earth’s surface,” as a 2014 report by market research company Frost & Sullivan put it.

    “It’s a huge impact as far as I’m concerned,” said Kevin Krajick, senior editor for science news at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who wrote a book on the discovery of diamonds in far northern Canada. Krajick noted that in remote mines, like those of the far north, it’s not just the physical hole to consider, but all the development required to reach a previously-untouched area, including roads and airstrips, roaring jets and diesel-powered trucks.

    Diamonds grown in factories clearly have a smaller physical footprint. According to the Frost & Sullivan report, they also use less water and create less waste. It’s for these reasons that Ali thinks diamond mining “will never be able to compete” with lab-grown diamonds from an environmental perspective.

    “The mining industry should not even by trying to do that,” he said.

    Of course, this is capitalism, so try to compete is exactly what the DPA is now doing. That same recent report that touted the mining industry’s economic benefits also asserts that mined diamonds have a carbon footprint three times lower than that of lab-grown diamonds, on average. The numbers behind that conclusion, however, don’t tell the full story.

    Growing diamonds does take considerable energy. The exact amount can vary greatly, however, depending on the specific nature of the growth process. These are details manufacturers are typically loathe to disclose, but Payne of Ada Diamonds says he estimates the most efficient players in the game today use about 250 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity per cut, polished carat of diamond; roughly what a U.S. household consumes in 9 days. Other estimates run higher. Citing unnamed sources, industry publication JCK Online reported that a modern HPHT run can use up to 700 kWh per carat, while CVD production can clock in north of 1,000 kWh per carat.

    Pulling these and several other public-record estimates, along with information on where in the world today’s lab diamonds are being grown and the energy mix powering the producer nations’ electric grids, the DPA-commissioned study estimated that your typical lab-grown diamond results in some 511 kg of carbon emissions per cut, polished carat. Using information provided by mining companies on fuel and electricity consumption, along with other greenhouse gas sources on the mine site, it found that the average mined carat was responsible for just 160 kg of carbon emissions.

    One limitation here is that the carbon footprint estimate for mining focused only on diamond production, not the years of work entailed in developing a mine. As Ali noted, developing a mine can take a lot of energy, particularly for those sited in remote locales where equipment needs to be hauled long distances by trucks or aircraft.

    There’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.”

    #dimants #Afrique #technologie #capitalisme

  • NYPD Added Nearly 2,500 New People to Its Gang Database in the Last Year
    https://theintercept.com/2019/06/28/nypd-gang-database-additions

    The New York Police Department is still listing children as young as 13 in its secret gang database, police officials told a New York City Council committee yesterday. The database is growing, currently including 18,084 people, up 2 percent from last June, when the NYPD last testified about the database. The increase came despite the removal of some 2,125 names from the registry — because the police added nearly 2,500 people to the database. Oleg Chernyavsky, head of legislative affairs for (...)

    #NYPD #BigData #discrimination #harcèlement

  • Next online battle will play on fear of bots, says Facebook official
    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jun/25/next-online-battle-will-play-on-fear-of-bots-says-facebook-official

    New ‘influence operations’ will openly advertise participation in debate instead of hiding it The next wave of “influence operations” like those that Russia used to target the 2016 US election will aim to destabilise debate by making voters think bots are everywhere, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy has said. Nathaniel Gleicher, who runs the company’s response to politically motivated malfeasance on its platform, said groups such as Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) were (...)

    #IRA #bot #manipulation #élections #publicité

    ##publicité
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/ebecdef2c418ada51be59c66b4601a1d54a90c76/6_0_3433_2060/master/3433.jpg

  • Ethiopia: Regime says coup attempt thwarted, military chief killed ...
    https://diasp.eu/p/9254926

    Ethiopia: Regime says coup attempt thwarted, military chief killed

    Source: Associated Press

    “Ethiopia’s government foiled a coup attempt in a region north of the capital, Addis Ababa, and the country’s military chief was shot dead, the prime minister said Sunday. The failed coup in the Amhara region was led by a high-ranking military officer and others within the military, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, wearing military fatigues, announced on the state broadcaster. In a related development, the head of Ethiopia’s military was shot dead in the capital not long after the attack in Amhara, during which soldiers attacked a building in which a meeting of regional officials was taking place, Nigussu Tilahun, spokesman for the prime minister, told a news conference Sunday. The regional president and (...)

  • ‘Israel does not want peace’, former Mossad chief says
    June 22, 2019 – Middle East Monitor
    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190622-israel-does-not-want-peace-former-mossad-chief-says

    The former chief of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, Shabtai Shavit, has said that Israel does not want peace and that, if it had, it would have made peace with the Palestinian Authority (PA) long ago.

    Shavit gave his remarks to Israeli daily Maariv, reiterating that if Israel wanted peace it would have discussed it in economic and infrastructure terms that serve the interests of both parties, Arab 48 reported yesterday.

    However, Shavit said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not see the PA as a negotiating partner and therefore refuses to develop relations with the authority. “Do you know any other head of an Israeli government who did not talk with the Palestinians?” he asked.

  • Le directeur du musée juif de Berlin démissionne après une polémique sur l’antisémitisme
    Mis à jour le 15/06/2019
    https://www.francetvinfo.fr/monde/europe/allemagne/le-directeur-du-musee-juif-de-berlin-demissionne-apres-une-polemique-su

    Le directeur du musée juif de Berlin, Peter Schäfer, a démissionné, vendredi 14 juin, sur fond de polémique. En cause : un tweet controversé de son établissement recommandant la lecture d’un article critique de la décision, en mai, du Parlement allemand de considérer comme « antisémites » les méthodes du mouvement BDS (Boycott Désinvestissement Sanctions). Peter Schäfer a remis sa démission à la ministre de la Culture allemande, Monika Grütters, « pour éviter de nouveaux préjudices au musée juif de Berlin », a indiqué ce dernier.

    #BDS

    • Berlin Jewish Museum Director Resigns After Tweet Supporting BDS Freedom of Speech

      Peter Schäfer steps down days after sharing of petition calling on German government not to adopt motion defining anti-Israel boycotts as anti-Semitic
      Noa Landau - Jun 14, 2019 8:48 PM
      https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/berlin-jewish-museum-director-resigns-after-tweet-supporting-bds-freedom-of

      The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum has resigned, the museum announced Friday, days after it was criticized for endorsing a petition against a parliamentary motion defining anti-Israel boycotts as anti-Semitic and banning the boycott movement from using public buildings.

      The resignation of museum Director Peter Schäfer comes after Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff called the museum’s sharing of the petition “shameful.”

      The petition, asserting that “boycotts are a legitimate and nonviolent tool of resistance,” was signed by 240 Jewish intellectuals.

      The signatories, among them Avraham Burg and Eva Illouz, called on the German government not to adopt the motion, to protect freedom of speech and continue funding of Israeli and Palestinian organizations “that peacefully challenge the Israeli occupation, expose severe violations of international law and strengthen civil society. These organizations defend the principles and values at the heart of liberal democracy and rule of law, in Germany and elsewhere. More than ever, they need financial support and political backing.”

      An Israeli guide at the Berlin museum told Haaretz he planned to resign in protest of “the crude interventions by the Israeli government and Germany in the museum’s work.”

      Professor Emeritus Yaacov Shavit, former head of the department of History of the Jewish People at Tel Aviv University, told Haaretz that “this whole story is nothing more than a cause to displace Prof. Sheffer, a researcher of international renown of the Second Temple period, Mishna, and Talmud.”

      “Community leaders in Berlin needed to be grateful that someone like him agreed to serve as manager of the museum. This foolish act by community leaders is outrageous and bothersome,” he added.

      Last year, it was reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded from Chancellor Angela Merkel that Germany stop funding the museum because it had held an exhibition about Jerusalem, “that presents a Muslim-Palestinian perspective.” Merkel was asked to halt funding to other organizations as well, on grounds that they were anti-Israel, among them the Berlin International Film Festival, pro-Palestinian Christian organizations, and the Israeli news website +972, which receives funding from the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

      Netanyahu did not deny the report and his bureau confirmed that he had raised “with various leaders the issue of funding Palestinian and Israeli groups and nonprofit organizations that depict the Israel Defense Forces as war criminals, support Palestinian terrorism and call for boycotting the State of Israel.”

      The Bundestag’s motion last month marked the first time a European parliament had officially defined the BDS movement as anti-Semitic. The motion, which is a call to the government and isn’t legally binding, won broad multiparty support from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the Social Democrats and the Free Democratic Party. Some members of the Greens Party also supported the motion, though others abstained at the last minute. The motion stated that the BDS movement’s “Don’t Buy” stickers on Israeli products evoke the Nazi slogan “Don’t buy from Jews.”

  • South Korea region seeks to tag Japanese firms as ’war criminals’ - Nikkei Asian Review
    https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/South-Korea-region-seeks-to-tag-Japanese-firms-as-war-criminals


    Il faut apprendre le coréen si on veut appendre des choses sur la participation des entreprises japonaises aux crimes de guerre. Le web de langue anglaise ne contient guère de documents, on a l’impression qu’un énorme balai nippon soit passé pour mettre à la poubelle chaque information nuisible à l’image de marque de son propriétaire.

    SEOUL — South Korea’s largest province is considering whether to stigmatize nearly 300 Japanese companies over their purported actions during World War II, by imposing an ordinance that requires schools to put alert labels on these firms’ products in their schools.

    Twenty-seven members of the Gyeonggi Province council submitted the bill last week in an attempt to give students the “right understanding on history.” If passed, schools will have to place on the items stickers that say: “This product is made by a Japanese war criminal company.”

    The move is likely further deepen a diplomatic spat between Seoul and Tokyo, which are at loggerheads over territorial issues and the legacy of Japan’s 35-year colonization of the Korean Peninsula (1910-1945).

    The list of 299 companies includes Nikon, Panasonic and Yamaha. The rule would apply to items such as projectors, camcorders, cameras and copy machines with a price tag of 200,000 won ($190) or more. Most of the companies on the list do not commonly supply products to schools — they include Tokyo Gas, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

    Both Nikon and Panasonic declined to comment for this story.
    The proposed sticker says: “This product is made by a Japanese war criminal company.” The image was captured from the Gyeonggi Provincial Council website. © Kyodo

    “Consumers have a responsibility to remember Japanese companies committed war crimes, and that they have not apologized [for their past wrongdoings],” Council member Hwang Dae-ho said in a statement. “It is a part of history education to help students remember clearly about war-crime companies who do not take social responsibility.”

    The sensitive historical issues were reopened last October when the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to pay reparations to Koreans who were forced to work in Japan during the period of Japanese colonial rule. This was a reversal of a long-standing diplomatic understanding that reparations issues were settled in a 1965 accord establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

    The neighbors have also clashed over Seoul’s decision to disband a fund for wartime “comfort women,” which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former South Korean President Park Geun-hye set up in 2016. The countries also dispute the sovereignty of islands in the Sea of Japan, and in December a South Korean warship locked fire-control radar onto a Japanese patrol plane.

    Earlier this month, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said tariffs were among measures Japan could take against South Korea should the dispute worsen. He also said steps such as halting remittances or stopping visa issuance could be taken.

    But the head of Gyeonggi Province’s education office said he was concerned about the negative impact the ordinance could have on relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

    “The [central] government should make a decision first because it can hugely affect diplomacy between South Korea and Japan,” Lee Jae-jung said in a news conference. “I think it is natural that students study on this by themselves rather than making it a rule.”

    Gyeonggi province is located in the northwest of the country, and surrounds the capital, Seoul. It has a population of more than 12 million. The council is dominated by President Moon Jae-in’s ruling Democratic Party, with its members accounting for 135 members of the 142 seats.

    #Japon #Corée #censure

  • Lustucru: From Severed Heads to Ready-Made Meals

    Jé Wilson charts the migration of the Lustucru figure through the French cultural imagination — from misogynistic blacksmith bent on curbing female empowerment, to child-stealing bogeyman, to jolly purveyor of packaged pasta.

    https://publicdomainreview.org/2019/06/13/lustucru-from-severed-heads-to-ready-made-meals

    via https://www.metafilter.com/181455/Lustucru-From-Severed-Heads-to-Ready-Made-Meals

    • Wahoo quelle histoire !

      The sign of the shop, hanging at upper left, displays a decapitated woman’s body above the words “Tout en est bon”, from the saying, “Une femme sans tête: tout en est bon”, meaning “A woman without a head: everything is good”. To make the message absolutely clear, the block of text encourages men to bring their difficult wives to this head doctor, where their brains will be reforged and purged of all screechy, angry, lunatic, obstinate, rebellious, willful, and lazy ways. Any woman with a mind of her own is guaranteed a graphically brutal straightening out.

      As sexist satire goes, this is dark. Even darker is the fact that, as soon as the image appeared, the head-pounding blacksmith “became all the rage” in France.2 Publishers began to churn out stand-alone broadsheets of his image in order to feed a demand for cheap copies, and versions of him in his forge spread from France to Germany and Italy.3 An entire almanac calendar for 1660 was dedicated to Lustucru.4 He was written into the latest comic plays and poems, and his image was even stamped on tokens or “jetons” (metal coins used mainly as counters in the age before calculators). In today’s terms, he went viral.

      His name, Lustucru, comes from a slurring of “L’eusses-tu-cru?”, a stock phrase used in that period by theatrical fools, which meant, “Would you have believed it?” or in this case, “Would you have thought a woman’s head could be fixed?” According to the seventeenth-century French writer Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux, Lustucru was born from a desire for male revenge.

      Je me demande bien de quelle revenche contre les femmes auraient les hommes de cette époque et dont parle ce Gédéon Tallemant.

      Male anxiety regarding the growing influence and power of women was generally on the rise in France during the 1650s. Women had begun to gain some standing in the literary arts and were established enough to have been satirized as “les précieuses”, a type of clever woman who frequented Parisian salons, wrote books, and favored an elegantly refined (or, to other minds, affected and pretentious) speaking and writing style.

      Les femmes n’ont pas gagné en puissance vers 1650, c’est même tout l’inverse, c’est la période de la création de l’académie française, institution dont le but principale est de baillonner les femmes et excisé la langue de toute trace de féminin qui ne soit pas humiliant. C’est aussi la période de la chasse aux sorcière, des interdictions de reprendre le commerce familial en cas de veuvage,

      #séduction_à_la_française #inversion_patriarcale #blâmer_la_victime #misogynie #féminicide #domination_masculine #mégèrisme #histoire #marque #cannibalisme #lobotomie #hystérie #femmes #guerre_des_sexes #couple #amour #hétérosexualité #domination_masculine #chirurgie #violences_médicale #patriarcat #matriarcat

  • New #Ebola outbreak in DRC is ’truly frightening’, says Wellcome Trust director - BBC News

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48615667

    The head of a major medical research charity has called the latest outbreak of Ebola in central Africa “truly frightening”.

    Nearly 1,400 people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Dr Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, said the epidemic was the worst since that of 2013-16 and has showed “no sign of stopping”.

    #rdc #santé

  • The open access wars: How to free science from academic paywalls - Vox
    https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/6/3/18271538/open-access-elsevier-california-sci-hub-academic-paywalls

    That’s because in February, the UC system — one of the country’s largest academic institutions, encompassing Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, and several other campuses — dropped its nearly $11 million annual subscription to Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of academic journals.

    On the face of it, this seemed like an odd move. Why cut off students and researchers from academic research?

    In fact, it was a principled stance that may herald a revolution in the way science is shared around the world.

    The University of California decided it doesn’t want scientific knowledge locked behind paywalls, and thinks the cost of academic publishing has gotten out of control.

    Elsevier owns around 3,000 academic journals, and its articles account for some 18 percent of all the world’s research output. “They’re a monopolist, and they act like a monopolist,” says Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, head of the campus libraries at UC Berkeley and co-chair of the team that negotiated with the publisher. Elsevier makes huge profits on its journals, generating billions of dollars a year for its parent company RELX .

    This is a story about more than subscription fees. It’s about how a private industry has come to dominate the institutions of science, and how librarians, academics, and even pirates are trying to regain control.

    In 2018, Elsevier’s revenue grew by 2 percent, to a total of $3.2 billion. Gemma Hersh, a senior vice president for global policy at Elsevier, says the company’s net profit margin was 19 percent (more than double the net profit of Netflix).

    When the internet arrived, electronic PDFs became the main medium through which articles were disseminated. At that point, “librarians were optimistic this was going to be the solution; at last, journals are going to become much, much cheaper,” Fyfe says.

    But instead of adopting a new business and pricing model to match the new means of no-cost dissemination, consolidation gave academic publishers the freedom to raise prices. Starting in the late 1990s, publishers increasingly pushed sales of their subscriptions into large bundled deals. In this model, universities pay a hefty price to get a huge subset of a publisher’s journals, instead of purchasing individual titles

    But critics, including open access crusaders, think the business model is due for a change. “I think we’re nearing the tipping point, and the industry is going to change, just like the industry for recorded music has changed, the industry for movies has changed,” MacKie-Mason says. “[The publishers] know it’s going to happen. They just want to protect their profits and their business model as long as they can.”❞

    #Science #Open_access #Accès_libre #Université_Californie #Elsevier

  • Comment les services de renseignement israéliens collaborent à la lutte contre #BDS à travers le monde

    Mossad involved in anti-boycott activity, Israeli minister’s datebooks reveal - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-mossad-involved-in-anti-boycott-activity-israeli-minister-s-diarie

    The datebooks of Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan for 2018 reveal that he cooperated with the Mossad in the fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

    The diaries, which were released in response to a Freedom of Information request, show that Erdan met with Mossad head Yossi Cohen about “the struggle against the boycott.” The request was made by the Hatzlaha movement, an organization promoting a fair society and economy, to all ministers, deputy ministers and ministry directors-general.

    Officials in the Strategic Affairs Ministry are proud of their work with the state’s security agencies, but hide the content and full scope of these activities on grounds that if these would be revealed, it would undermine the covert efforts being made against BDS and its leaders. Officials in Erdan’s office said that the meeting with Cohen was merely a “review,” but sources familiar with the ministry’s activities told Haaretz that the ministry indeed cooperates with the Mossad.

    Erdan’s datebooks also show meetings with the head of the National Security Council and the head of the NSC’s intelligence branch, as well as meetings with representatives of numerous Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Congress, the umbrella organization of French Jewry, the U.S. Reform Movement and others. There are also logs of various meetings and phone calls that Erdan’s chief of staff held with foreign leaders and diplomats, as well as meetings with settler leaders, including the heads of the Samaria Regional Council and the Hebron Hills Regional Council.

    Many of Erdan’s meetings in 2018 were devoted to establishing a public benefit corporation which at first was called Kella Shlomo but whose name was later changed to Concert. Its aim was to covertly advance “mass awareness activities” as part of “the struggle against the campaign to delegitimize” Israel globally. This corporation, which received 128 million shekels (about $36 million) in government funding and was to also collect 128 million shekels in private contributions, is not subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

    In early 2018 Haaretz published the list of shareholders and directors in the company, which include former Strategic Affairs Ministry director general Yossi Kuperwasser; former UN ambassador Dore Gold, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; former UN ambassador Ron Prosor; businessman Micah Avni, whose father, Richard Lakin, was killed in a 2015 terror attack in Jerusalem; Amos Yadlin, who heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies; Miri Eisin, who served as the prime minister’s adviser on the foreign press during the Second Lebanon War; former National Security Council chief Yaakov Amidror; and Sagi Balasha, a former CEO of the Israeli-American Council.
    Demonstrators wear shirts reading “Boycott Israel” during a protest in Paris, Dec. 9, 2017.
    Demonstrators wear shirts reading “Boycott Israel” during a protest in Paris, Dec. 9, 2017. AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu

    According to a government resolution, the funding was granted to implement part of the ministry’s activities related to the fights against delegitimization and boycotts against the State of Israel. It says the company would raise the private portion of its financing for the initiative from philanthropic sources or pro-Israel organizations. A steering committee was to be appointed for the initiative to comprise representatives of the government and the other funding partners.
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    According to a ministry document revealed by The Seventh Eye website, the organization was expected to carry out mass awareness activities and work to exploit the wisdom of crowds, “making new ideas accessible to decision-makers and donors in the Jewish world, and developing new tools to combat the delegitimization of Israel.”

    Elad Mann, Hatzlacha’s legal adviser, said, “Revealing the date books of senior and elected officials is crucial to understanding how the government system works and it has great value taken together with other details of information. This is how to monitor the government and its priorities or the actions it takes with more efficiency and transparency.”

    Erdan’s office said that he “met during this past term with heads of the security echelons to give them a survey of the ministry’s activities in the struggle against the delegitimization and boycott of Israel.”

    Josh Breiner contributed to this report.

  • ’Bigger box ships mean bigger risks for everyone’ - The Loadstar
    https://theloadstar.com/bigger-box-ships-mean-bigger-risks-for-everyone
    https://theloadstar.com/wp-content/uploads/ulcv--eyewave--680x0-c-default.jpg_
    ©Eyewave_

    It seems the ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) that have become the ‘new normal’ on the Asia-Europe tradelane have not proved as popular as the lines that operate them hoped.

    Several shippers The Loadstar spoke to at Transport Logistic in Munich last week could not hide their aversion to the ocean behemoths – and it appears the insurance industry also has concerns. 

    In its 2019 Safety and Shipping review, Allianz says ULCVs “are of particular concern” for the insurance industry, given that bigger vessels mean bigger risks, with a potential for a loss as big as $4bn. 

    Insurers have been warning for years that the increasing size of vessels is leading to a higher accumulation of risk,” it said. “These fears are now being realised, potentially offsetting improvements in safety and risk management.

    Larger vessels mean far greater accumulations of risks, and therefore larger values and exposures, both on board vessels and in ports,” said the insurer.

    Noting that containerships have almost doubled in capacity in the past decade, “which brings issues as well as benefits”, the review says fires and explosions on board continue to generate large losses, with 174 reported incidents last year – and a new incident occurring every 60 days, on average.

    Such incidents can easily result in large claims in the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more,” says the review. “A worse-case loss scenario involving the collision and grounding of two large container vessels could result in a $4bn loss, when the costs of salvage, wreck removal and environmental claims are included.

    It adds that misdeclared cargo, including incorrect labelling and packaging of goods, “is believed to be the root cause of a number of fires and is a problem exacerbated by larger vessels, which can make issues more difficult to detect, locate and combat”.

    And it notes that onboard firefighting capability “continues to challenge larger vessels”, with the need for “considerable outside assistance to control a blaze” and that “significant damage to the vessel is likely to occur” due to the time required to get fire-fighting vessels to the scene.

    But it is not only losses resulting from damage to the vessels that insurers are concerned about: the loss of some 300 containers in the North Sea in heavy weather from the 19,224 teu MSC Zoe in January resulted in substantial claims, and the report reminds readers that “inadequate stowing and lashing” of containers “poses a serious risk in bad weather”.

    The biggest container vessel casualty to date was the 15,262 teu Maersk Honam, which caught fire on 6 March last year in the Arabian Sea, claiming the lives of five crew members.

    Indeed, even for the small-by-comparison, 8,110 teu MOL Comfort, which broke its back and sank off the coast of Yemen in 2008, resulting in a total loss of the ship and its 4,380 Europe-bound containers, the insured cargo loss alone was reported at some $300m.

    Marine insurers typically calculate their average exposure at $50,000-$100,000 per box, but due to the higher value of the MOL Comfort’s electronics and consumer goods cargo, the loss was considerably higher.

    Moreover, there have been instances recorded by marine insurers where the value of a single packed container has exceeded $1m.

    It is very clear that in some shipping segments, loss prevention measures have not kept pace with the upscaling of vessels,” said Chris Turberville, head of marine hull & liabilities in the UK for Allianz.

    This is something that needs to be addressed from the design stage onwards.

  • What Israel would look like if more students learned Arabic
    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/06/israel-arabic-hebrew-language-idf-nationality-law-school.html

    How unpopular is Arabic in Israel? It turns out that just 1.6% of Jews in the country studied Arabic in school. Only 26% of Israel’s adult population speaks Arabic, with the overwhelming majority of them Arab citizens. Only 0.5% of Jews in Israel are able to read a book in Arabic.

    Students in Israel are only required to study Arabic in middle school, and then for just three hours per week. Schools in the religious nationalist education system barely learn Arabic at all, and the same is true in ultra-Orthodox schools.

    (...)

    There is a problem in academia, too. Professor Elie Podeh, former head of the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University, told Al-Monitor that he believes there is a connection between the “attitude toward peace” and interest in learning Arabic. “There has been a decline in the number of people studying the humanities overall,” he said. "This includes a noticeable decline in registration in several Middle Eastern Studies departments. Between 70 and 90 students register with the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University every year. It is quite possible that there would have been greater interest among students in the 1990s, when the mood in the country was different.”

    In October 2015, the coalition and opposition agreed to pass the initial reading of a law that would have required Israeli students to learn both languages, Hebrew and Arabic, starting in the first grade. Since then, however, the law has been held up by the Knesset’s Education Committee.

    #israël #arabe

  • Satellite data shows #Amazon #deforestation rising under #Brazil's #Bolsonaro - Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-environment-deforestation-idUSKCN1T52OQ

    According to the Brazilian space research institute INPE, the DETER alerting system registered deforestation of 739 square kilometers (285 square miles) in May, the first of three months in which logging tends to surge following the region’s rainy season.

    That is up from 550 square kilometers in May 2018 and more than #double the deforestation detected two years earlier.

    “If this upward curve continues, we could have a bad year for the Amazon forest,” Claudio Almeida, head of INPE’s satellite monitoring program, said on Tuesday. “It will depend on how much policing there is in the next two critical months,” he added.

    The data adds to concerns from environmentalists who warn that Bolsonaro’s five-month-old government has dismantled conservation agencies, shown skepticism about fighting climate change and cut the budget to enforce environmental laws.

  • UK: Johnson ordered to face accusations that he lied to the public ...
    https://diasp.eu/p/9129729

    UK: Johnson ordered to face accusations that he lied to the public

    Source: National Public Radio [US state media]

    “A British court is ordering Boris Johnson to face accusations that while holding public office, he lied in order to sway voter opinion on Brexit. The case was brought by a ‘private prosecutor’ who says Johnson abused the public’s trust while holding official posts. Johnson has quickly emerged as a front-runner to replace Prime Minister Theresa May, who is resigning next month. But with today’s ruling, he must also face charges of misconduct in public office. The case was brought by Marcus Ball — who has raised more than $300,000 to fund his effort. Ball says Johnson is guilty of ‘misleading the public by endorsing and making statements about the cost of European Union (...)

    • – lien propre :

      http://rationalreview.com/archives/337859

      – article relié :
      https://www.npr.org/2019/05/29/727832275/boris-johnson-is-ordered-to-face-accusations-that-he-lied-to-the-public

      #UK #EU #UE #Europe #Brexit

      A British court is ordering Boris Johnson to face accusations that while holding on Brexit. The case was brought by a “private prosecutor” who says Johnson abused the public’s trust while holding official posts.

      Johnson has quickly emerged as a front-runner to replace Prime Minister Theresa May, who is resigning next month. But with today’s ruling, he must also face charges of misconduct in public office. The case was brought by Marcus Ball — who has raised more than $300,000 to fund his effort.

      Ball says Johnson is guilty of “misleading the public by endorsing and making statements about the cost of European Union Membership, which he knew to be false.”

      Johnson is currently a member of Parliament. He resigned as the U.K’s foreign secretary last summer, in a protest against May’s plans to leave the European Union. He has also served as London’s mayor.

      Johnson has repeatedly made the false claim that Britain paid £350 million each week to be in the European Union. The claim was famously touted on a Vote Leave campaign bus during the run-up to the Brexit vote.

      In 2017, the head of the U.K.’s Statistics Authority sent Johnson a letter expressing his disappointment and telling Johnson it was “a clear misuse of official statistics” to say leaving the EU would free up £350 million (more than $440 million) weekly to spend on national healthcare.

      In 2018, Johnson acknowledged that the figure was inaccurate — but he said it was “grossly underestimated.”

      On his crowdfunding page, Ball stresses that he’s not trying to stop Brexit from happening. Instead, he’s targeting what he sees as the real threat facing society: lying, particularly the falsehoods that flow from those in power.

      “Lying in politics is the biggest problem. It is far more important than Brexit and certainly a great deal older,” Ball wrote. “Historically speaking, lying in politics has assisted in starting wars, misleading voters and destroying public trust in the systems of democracy and government.”

      He added, “When politicians lie, democracy dies.”

      Ball says he wants to set a precedent by making it illegal for an elected official to lie about financial matters. If he’s successful, he says, the case could have a wide ripple effect.

      “Because of how the English common law works, it’s possible that such a precedent could be internationally persuasive by influencing the law in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada and India.”

      In Britain’s legal system, private prosecutions can be started by any person or company with the time and money to do so.

      As the London-based law firm Edmonds Marshall McMahon (which was once involved in Ball’s case) states, “Other than the fact the prosecution is brought by a private individual or company, for all other purposes they proceed in exactly the same way as if the prosecution had been brought by the Crown.”

  • Bad loans were killing the taxi industry long before Uber and Lyft: report
    https://nypost.com/2019/05/19/bad-loans-were-killing-the-taxi-industry-long-before-uber-and-lyft-report

    The financial woes of the city taxi market may not be entirely the fault of ride-hailing companies — the industry was a house of cards waiting to collapse, a report says.

    An investigation by the New York Times Sunday put the blame on industry leaders who artificially inflated taxi medallions costs fivefold over 12 years and created a massively profitable loan market built on questionable lending practices similar to those at the center of the housing crash.

    In 2013, a taxi medallion fetched $1.3 million, but by last year, the market had plunged and medallions were selling for less than $250,000.

    While much of the decline in value can be attributed to the flood of Uber and Lyft drivers, the report says exploitative loans, hundreds of which were interest-only, strapped drivers, often immigrants and unclear on the terms, with hefty monthly costs.

    The report says some loan costs became so steep, there weren’t enough hours in a week to drive to make a profit and eventually, all of their monthly fares went to pay the loans.

    When the market bottomed out in 2014, the head of the Progressive Credit Union, Robert Familan, made nearly $35 million from his medallion loan non-profit company.

    Employees were encouraged to give out shaky loans with bonuses and trips, the report says.

    The lenders denied any wrongdoing and the former chairwoman of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission said it wasn’t the commission’s job to regulate the lending, the report says.

    But Meera Joshi did tell the paper “lots of people just watched it happen.”

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/nyc-taxis-medallions-suicides.html


    Mohammed Hoque with his three children in their studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens.

    May 19, 2019 - The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

    The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

    After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

    Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

    Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. Over more than a decade, they channeled thousands of drivers into reckless loans and extracted hundreds of millions of dollars before the market collapsed.

    These business practices generated huge profits for bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners and debt collectors. The leaders of nonprofit credit unions became multimillionaires. Medallion brokers grew rich enough to buy yachts and waterfront properties. One of the most successful bankers hired the rap star Nicki Minaj to perform at a family party.

    But the methods stripped immigrant families of their life savings, crushed drivers under debt they could not repay and engulfed an industry that has long defined New York. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records. Thousands more are barely hanging on.

    The practices were strikingly similar to those behind the housing market crash that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown: Banks and loosely regulated private lenders wrote risky loans and encouraged frequent refinancing; drivers took on debt they could not afford, under terms they often did not understand.

    Some big banks even entered the taxi industry in the aftermath of the housing crash, seeking a new market, with new borrowers.

    The combination of easy money, eager borrowers and the lure of a rare asset helped prices soar far above what medallions were really worth. Some industry leaders fed the frenzy by purposefully overpaying for medallions in order to inflate prices, The Times found.

    Between 2002 and 2014, the price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million from $200,000, even though city records showed that driver incomes barely changed.

    About 4,000 drivers bought medallions in that period, records show. They were excited to buy, but they were enticed by a dubious premise.

    What Actually Happened to New York’s Taxi DriversMay 28, 2019

    After the medallion market collapsed, Mayor Bill de Blasio opted not to fund a bailout, and earlier this year, the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, shut down the committee overseeing the taxi industry, saying it had completed most of its work.

    Over 10 months, The Times interviewed 450 people, built a database of every medallion sale since 1995 and reviewed thousands of individual loans and other documents, including internal bank records and confidential profit-sharing agreements.

    The investigation found example after example of drivers trapped in exploitative loans, including hundreds who signed interest-only loans that required them to pay exorbitant fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all their monthly income, indefinitely.

    A Pakistani immigrant who thought he was just buying a car ended up with a $780,000 medallion loan that left him unable to pay rent. A Bangladeshi immigrant said he was told to lie about his income on his loan application; he eventually lost his medallion. A Haitian immigrant who worked to exhaustion to make his monthly payments discovered he had been paying only interest and went bankrupt.

    Abdur Rahim, who is from Bangladesh, is one of several cab drivers who allege they were duped into signing exploitative loans. 
    It is unclear if the practices violated any laws. But after reviewing The Times’s findings, experts said the methods were among the worst that have been used since the housing crash.

    “I don’t think I could concoct a more predatory scheme if I tried,” said Roger Bertling, the senior instructor at Harvard Law School’s clinic on predatory lending and consumer protection. “This was modern-day indentured servitude.”

    Lenders developed their techniques in New York but spread them to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere, transforming taxi industries across the United States.

    In interviews, lenders denied wrongdoing. They noted that regulators approved their practices, and said some borrowers made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. They said some drivers were happy to use climbing medallion values as collateral to take out cash, and that those who sold their medallions at the height of the market made money.

    The lenders said they believed medallion values would keep increasing, as they almost always had. No one, they said, could have predicted Uber and Lyft would emerge to undercut the business.

    “People love to blame banks for things that happen because they’re big bad banks,” said Robert Familant, the former head of Progressive Credit Union, a small nonprofit that specialized in medallion loans. “We didn’t do anything, in my opinion, other than try to help small businesspeople become successful.”

    Mr. Familant made about $30 million in salary and deferred payouts during the bubble, including $4.8 million in bonuses and incentives in 2014, the year it burst, according to disclosure forms.

    Meera Joshi, who joined the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2011 and became chairwoman in 2014, said it was not the city’s job to regulate lending. But she acknowledged that officials saw red flags and could have done something.

    “There were lots of players, and lots of people just watched it happen. So the T.L.C. watched it happen. The lenders watched it happen. The borrowers watched it happen as their investment went up, and it wasn’t until it started falling apart that people started taking action and pointing fingers,” said Ms. Joshi, who left the commission in March. “It was a party. Why stop it?”

    Every day, about 250,000 people hail a New York City yellow taxi. Most probably do not know they are participating in an unconventional economic system about as old as the Empire State Building.

    The city created taxi medallions in 1937. Unlicensed cabs crowded city streets, so officials designed about 12,000 specialized tin plates and made it illegal to operate a taxi without one bolted to the hood of the car. The city sold each medallion for $10.

    People who bought medallions could sell them, just like any other asset. The only restriction: Officials designated roughly half as “independent medallions” and eventually required that those always be owned by whoever was driving that cab.

    Over time, as yellow taxis became symbols of New York, a cutthroat industry grew around them. A few entrepreneurs obtained most of the nonindependent medallions and built fleets that controlled the market. They were family operations largely based in the industrial neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens.

    Allegations of corruption, racism and exploitation dogged the industry. Some fleet bosses were accused of cheating drivers. Some drivers refused to go outside Manhattan or pick up black and Latino passengers. Fleet drivers typically worked 60 hours a week, made less than minimum wage and received no benefits, according to city studies.

    Still, driving could serve as a path to the middle class. Drivers could save to buy an independent medallion, which would increase their earnings and give them an asset they could someday sell for a retirement nest egg.

    Those who borrowed money to buy a medallion typically had to submit a large down payment and repay within five to 10 years.

    The conservative lending strategy produced modest returns. The city did not release new medallions for almost 60 years, and values slowly climbed, hitting $100,000 in 1985 and $200,000 in 1997.

    “It was a safe and stable asset, and it provided a good life for those of us who were lucky enough to buy them,” said Guy Roberts, who began driving in 1979 and eventually bought medallions and formed a fleet. “Not an easy life, but a good life.”

    “And then,” he said, “everything changed.”

    – Before coming to America, Mohammed Hoque lived comfortably in Chittagong, a city on Bangladesh’s southern coast. He was a serious student and a gifted runner, despite a small and stocky frame. His father and grandfather were teachers; he said he surpassed them, becoming an education official with a master’s degree in management. He supervised dozens of schools and traveled on a government-issued motorcycle. In 2004, when he was 33, he married Fouzia Mahabub. -

    That same year, several of his friends signed up for the green card lottery, and their thirst for opportunity was contagious. He applied, and won.

    His wife had an uncle in Jamaica, Queens, so they went there. They found a studio apartment. Mr. Hoque wanted to work in education, but he did not speak enough English. A friend recommended the taxi industry.

    It was an increasingly common move for South Asian immigrants. In 2005, about 40 percent of New York cabbies were born in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, according to the United States Census Bureau. Over all, just 9 percent were born in the United States.

    Mr. Hoque and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh, and have rented the same apartment in Queens since 2005.

    Mr. Hoque joined Taxifleet Management, a large fleet run by the Weingartens, a Russian immigrant family whose patriarchs called themselves the “Three Wise Men.”

    He worked 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. On a good day, he said, he brought home $100. He often felt lonely on the road, and he developed back pain from sitting all day and diabetes, medical records show.

    He could have worked fewer shifts. He also could have moved out of the studio. But he drove as much as feasible and spent as little as possible. He had heard the city would soon be auctioning off new medallions. He was saving to buy one.

    Andrew Murstein, left, with his father, Alvin.CreditChester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    In the early 2000s, a new generation took power in New York’s cab industry. They were the sons of longtime industry leaders, and they had new ideas for making money.

    Few people represented the shift better than Andrew Murstein.

    Mr. Murstein was the grandson of a Polish immigrant who bought one of the first medallions, built one of the city’s biggest fleets and began informally lending to other buyers in the 1970s. Mr. Murstein attended business school and started his career at Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers, the investment banks.

    When he joined the taxi business, he has said, he pushed his family to sell off many medallions and to establish a bank to focus on lending. Medallion Financial went public in 1996. Its motto was, “In niches, there are riches.”

    Dozens of industry veterans said Mr. Murstein and his father, Alvin, were among those who helped to move the industry to less conservative lending practices. The industry veterans said the Mursteins, as well as others, started saying medallion values would always rise and used that idea to focus on lending to lower-income drivers, which was riskier but more profitable.

    The strategy began to be used by the industry’s other major lenders — Progressive Credit Union, Melrose Credit Union and Lomto Credit Union, all family-run nonprofits that made essentially all their money from medallion loans, according to financial disclosures.

    “We didn’t want to be the one left behind,” said Monte Silberger, Lomto’s controller and then chief financial officer from 1999 to 2017.

    The lenders began accepting smaller down payments. By 2013, many medallion buyers were not handing over any down payment at all, according to an analysis of buyer applications submitted to the city.

    “It got to a point where we didn’t even check their income or credit score,” Mr. Silberger said. “It didn’t matter.”

    Lenders also encouraged existing borrowers to refinance and take out more money when medallion prices rose, according to interviews with dozens of borrowers and loan officers. There is no comprehensive data, but bank disclosures suggest that thousands of owners refinanced.

    Industry veterans said it became common for owners to refinance to buy a house or to put children through college. “You’d walk into the bank and walk out 30 minutes later with an extra $200,000,” said Lou Bakalar, a broker who arranged loans.

    Yvon Augustin has been living with help from his children ever since he declared bankruptcy and lost his taxi medallion.

    Some pointed to the refinancing to argue that irresponsible borrowers fueled the crisis. “Medallion owners were misusing it,” said Aleksey Medvedovskiy, a fleet owner who also worked as a broker. “They used it as an A.T.M.”

    As lenders loosened standards, they increased returns. Rather than raising interest rates, they made borrowers pay a mix of costs — origination fees, legal fees, financing fees, refinancing fees, filing fees, fees for paying too late and fees for paying too early, according to a Times review of more than 500 loans included in legal cases. Many lenders also made borrowers split their loan and pay a much higher rate on the second loan, documents show.

    Lenders also extended loan lengths. Instead of requiring repayment in five or 10 years, they developed deals that lasted as long as 50 years, locking in decades of interest payments. And some wrote interest-only loans that could continue forever.

    “We couldn’t figure out why the company was doing so many interest-only loans,” said Michelle Pirritano, a Medallion Financial loan analyst from 2007 to 2011. “It was a good revenue stream, but it didn’t really make sense as a loan. I mean, it wasn’t really a loan, because it wasn’t being repaid.”

    Almost every loan reviewed by The Times included a clause that spiked the interest rate to as high as 24 percent if it was not repaid in three years. Lenders included the clause — called a “balloon” — so that borrowers almost always had to extend the loan, possibly at a higher rate than in the original terms, and with additional fees.

    Yvon Augustin was caught in one of those loans. He bought a medallion in 2006, a decade after emigrating from Haiti. He said he paid $2,275 every month — more than half his income, he said — and thought he was paying off the loan. But last year, his bank used the balloon to demand that he repay everything. That is when he learned he had been paying only the interest, he said.

    Mr. Augustin, 69, declared bankruptcy and lost his medallion. He lives off assistance from his children.

    During the global financial crisis, Eugene Haber, a lawyer for the taxi industry, started getting calls from bankers he had never met.

    Mr. Haber had written a template for medallion loans in the 1970s. By 2008, his thick mustache had turned white, and he thought he knew everybody in the industry. Suddenly, new bankers began calling his suite in a Long Island office park. Capital One, Signature Bank, New York Commercial Bank and others wanted to issue medallion loans, he said.

    Some of the banks were looking for new borrowers after the housing market collapsed, Mr. Haber said. “They needed somewhere else to invest,” he said. He said he represented some banks at loan signings but eventually became embittered because he believed banks were knowingly lending to people who could not repay.

    Instead of lending directly, the big banks worked through powerful industry players. They enlisted large fleet owners and brokers — especially Neil Greenbaum, Richard Chipman, Savas Konstantinides, Roman Sapino and Basil Messados — to use the banks’ money to lend to medallion buyers. In return, the owners and brokers received a cut of the monthly payments and sometimes an additional fee.

    The fleet owners and brokers, who technically issued the loans, did not face the same scrutiny as banks.

    “They did loans that were frankly insane,” said Larry Fisher, who from 2003 to 2016 oversaw medallion lending at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry. “It contributed to the price increases and put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to keep up.”

    Evgeny Freidman, a fleet owner, has said he purposely overbid for taxi medallions in order to drive up their value.CreditSasha Maslov
    Still, Mr. Fisher said, Melrose followed lending rules. “A lot of people tend to blame others for their own misfortune,” he said. “If they want to blame the lender for the medallion going down the tubes the way it has, I think they’re misplaced.”

    Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner and the broker and lender who arranged Mr. Hoque’s loans, said every loan issued by his company abided by federal and state banking guidelines. “I am very sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families who are seeking a better life in this country and in this city,” said Mr. Konstantinides, who added that he was also an immigrant.

    Walter Rabin, who led Capital One’s medallion lending division between 2007 and 2012 and has led Signature Bank’s medallion lending division since, said he was one of the industry’s most conservative lenders. He said he could not speak for the brokers and fleet owners with whom he worked.

    Mr. Rabin and other Signature executives denied fault for the market collapse and blamed the city for allowing ride-hail companies to enter with little regulation. “It’s the City of New York that took the biggest advantage of the drivers,” said Joseph J. DePaolo, the president and chief executive of Signature. “It’s not the banks.”

    New York Commercial Bank said in a statement that it began issuing medallion loans before the housing crisis and that they were a very small part of its business. The bank did not engage in risky lending practices, a spokesman said.

    Mr. Messados said in an interview that he disagreed with interest-only loans and other one-sided terms. But he said he was caught between banks developing the loans and drivers clamoring for them. “They were insisting on this,” he said. “What are you supposed to do? Say, ‘I’m not doing the sale?’”

    Several lenders challenged the idea that borrowers were unsophisticated. They said that some got better deals by negotiating with multiple lenders at once.

    Mr. Greenbaum, Mr. Chipman and Mr. Sapino declined to comment, as did Capital One.

    Some fleet owners worked to manipulate prices. In the most prominent example, Evgeny Freidman, a brash Russian immigrant who owned so many medallions that some called him “The Taxi King,” said he purposefully overpaid for medallions sold at city auctions. He reasoned that the higher prices would become the industry standard, making the medallions he already owned worth more. Mr. Freidman, who was partners with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, disclosed the plan in a 2012 speech at Yeshiva University. He recently pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud. He declined to comment.

    As medallion prices kept increasing, the industry became strained. Drivers had to work longer hours to make monthly payments. Eventually, loan records show, many drivers had to use almost all their income on payments.

    “The prices got to be ridiculous,” said Vincent Sapone, the retired manager of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an owner association. “When it got close to $1 million, nobody was going to pay that amount of money, unless they came from another country. Nobody from Brooklyn was going to pay that.”

    Some drivers have alleged in court that lenders tricked them into signing loans.

    Muhammad Ashraf, who is not fluent in English, said he thought he was getting a loan to purchase a car but ended up in debt to buy a taxi medallion instead.

    Muhammad Ashraf, a Pakistani immigrant, alleged that a broker, Heath Candero, duped him into a $780,000 interest-only loan. He said in an interview in Urdu that he could not speak English fluently and thought he was just signing a loan to buy a car. He said he found out about the loan when his bank sued him for not fully repaying. The bank eventually decided not to pursue a case against Mr. Ashraf. He also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Candero. That case was dismissed. A lawyer for Mr. Candero declined to comment.

    Abdur Rahim, a Bangladeshi immigrant, alleged that his lender, Bay Ridge Credit Union, inserted hidden fees. In an interview, he added he was told to lie on his loan application. The application, reviewed by The Times, said he made $128,389, but he said his tax return showed he made about $25,000. In court, Bay Ridge has denied there were hidden fees and said Mr. Rahim was “confusing the predatory-lending statute with a mere bad investment.” The credit union declined to comment.

    Several employees of lenders said they were pushed to write loans, encouraged by bonuses and perks such as tickets to sporting events and free trips to the Bahamas.

    They also said drivers almost never had lawyers at loan closings. Borrowers instead trusted their broker to represent them, even though, unbeknown to them, the broker was often getting paid by the bank.

    Stan Zurbin, who between 2009 and 2012 did consulting work for a lender that issued medallion loans, said that as prices rose, lenders in the industry increasingly lent to immigrants.

    “They didn’t have 750 credit scores, let’s just say,” he said. “A lot of them had just come into the country. A lot of them just had no idea what they were signing.”

    The $1 million medallion
    Video
    Mrs. Hoque did not want her husband to buy a medallion. She wanted to use their savings to buy a house. They had their first child in 2008, and they planned to have more. They needed to leave the studio apartment, and she thought a home would be a safer investment.

    But Mr. Hoque could not shake the idea, especially after several friends bought medallions at the city’s February 2014 auction.

    One friend introduced him to a man called “Big Savas.” It was Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner who also had a brokerage and a lending company, Mega Funding.

    The call came a few weeks later. A medallion owner had died, and the family was selling for $1 million.

    Mr. Hoque said he later learned the $50,000 he paid up front was just for taxes. Mega eventually requested twice that amount for fees and a down payment, records show. Mr. Hoque said he maxed out credit cards and borrowed from a dozen friends and relatives.

    Fees and interest would bring the total repayment to more than $1.7 million, documents show. It was split into two loans, both issued by Mega with New York Commercial Bank. The loans made him pay $5,000 a month — most of the $6,400 he could earn as a medallion owner.

    Mohammed Hoque’s Medallion Loans Consumed Most of His Taxi Revenue
    After paying his two medallion loans and business costs, Mr. Hoque had about $1,400 left over each month to pay the rent on his studio apartment in Queens and cover his living expenses.

    Estimated monthly revenue $11,845

    Gas $1,500

    Income after expenses $1,400

    Vehicle maintenance $1,300

    Medallion loan 1 $4,114

    Insurance $1,200

    Car loan $650

    Credit card fees $400

    Medallion loan 2 $881

    Other work-related expenses $400

    By the time the deal closed in July 2014, Mr. Hoque had heard of a new company called Uber. He wondered if it would hurt the business, but nobody seemed to be worried.

    As Mr. Hoque drove to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s downtown office for final approval of the purchase, he fantasized about becoming rich, buying a big house and bringing his siblings to America. After a commission official reviewed his application and loan records, he said he was ushered into the elegant “Taxi of Tomorrow” room. An official pointed a camera. Mr. Hoque smiled.

    “These are little cash cows running around the city spitting out money,” Mr. Murstein said, beaming in a navy suit and pink tie.

    He did not mention he was quietly leaving the business, a move that would benefit him when the market collapsed.

    By the time of the appearance, Medallion Financial had been cutting the number of medallion loans on its books for years, according to disclosures it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Murstein later said the company started exiting the business and focusing on other ventures before 2010.

    Mr. Murstein declined numerous interview requests. He also declined to answer some written questions, including why he promoted medallions while exiting the business. In emails and through a spokesman, he acknowledged that Medallion Financial reduced down payments but said it rarely issued interest-only loans or charged borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    “Many times, we did not match what our competitors were willing to do and in retrospect, thankfully, we lost the business,” he wrote to The Times.

    Interviews with three former staffers, and a Times review of loan documents that were filed as part of lawsuits brought by Medallion Financial against borrowers, indicate the company issued many interest-only loans and routinely included a provision allowing it to charge borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    Other lenders also left the taxi industry or took precautions long before the market collapsed.

    The credit unions specializing in the industry kept making new loans. But between 2010 and 2014, they sold the loans to other financial institutions more often than in the previous five years, disclosure forms show. Progressive Credit Union, run by Mr. Familant, sold loans off almost twice as often, the forms show. By 2012, that credit union was selling the majority of the loans it issued.

    In a statement, Mr. Familant said the selling of loans was a standard banking practice that did not indicate a lack of confidence in the market.

    Several banks used something called a confession of judgment. It was an obscure document in which the borrower admitted defaulting on the loan — even before taking out any money at all — and authorized the bank to do whatever it wanted to collect.

    Larry Fisher was the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry, from 2003 to 2016.
    Congress has banned that practice in consumer loans, but not in business loans, which is how lenders classified medallion deals. Many states have barred it in business loans, too, but New York is not among them.

    Even as some lenders quietly braced for the market to fall, prices kept rising, and profits kept growing.

    By 2014, many of the people who helped create the bubble had made millions of dollars and invested it elsewhere.

    Medallion Financial started focusing on lending to R.V. buyers and bought a professional lacrosse team and a Nascar team, painting the car to look like a taxi. Mr. Murstein and his father made more than $42 million between 2002 and 2014, disclosures show. In 2015, Ms. Minaj, the rap star, performed at his son’s bar mitzvah.

    The Melrose C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, had the highest base salary of any large state-chartered credit union leader in America in 2013 and 2015, records show. His medallion lending supervisor, Mr. Fisher, also made millions.

    It is harder to tell how much fleet owners and brokers made, but in recent years news articles have featured some of them with new boats and houses.

    Mr. Messados’s bank records, filed in a legal case, show that by 2013, he had more than $50 million in non-taxi assets, including three homes and a yacht.

    The bubble bursts

    At least eight drivers have committed suicide, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans.
    The medallion bubble burst in late 2014. Uber and Lyft may have hastened the crisis, but virtually all of the hundreds of industry veterans interviewed for this article, including many lenders, said inflated prices and risky lending practices would have caused a collapse even if ride-hailing had never been invented.

    At the market’s height, medallion buyers were typically earning about $5,000 a month and paying about $4,500 to their loans, according to an analysis by The Times of city data and loan documents. Many owners could make their payments only by refinancing when medallion values increased, which was unsustainable, some loan officers said.

    City data shows that since Uber entered New York in 2011, yellow cab revenue has decreased by about 10 percent per cab, a significant bite for low-earning drivers but a small drop compared with medallion values, which initially rose and then fell by 90 percent.

    As values fell, borrowers asked for breaks. But many lenders went the opposite direction. They decided to leave the business and called in their loans.

    They used the confessions to get hundreds of judgments that would allow them to take money from bank accounts, court records show. Some tried to get borrowers to give up homes or a relative’s assets. Others seized medallions and quickly resold them for profit, while still charging the original borrowers fees and extra interest. Several drivers have alleged in court that their lenders ordered them to buy life insurance.

    Many lenders hired a debt collector, Anthony Medina, to seize medallions from borrowers who missed payments.

    The scars left on cabs after medallions were removed.

    Mr. Medina left notes telling borrowers they had to give the lender “relief” to get their medallions back. The notes, which were reviewed by The Times, said the seizure was “authorized by vehicle apprehension unit.” Some drivers said Mr. Medina suggested he was a police officer and made them meet him at a park at night and pay $550 extra in cash.

    One man, Jean Demosthenes, a 64-year-old Haitian immigrant who could not speak English, said in an interview in Haitian Creole that Mr. Medina cornered him in Midtown, displayed a gun and took his car.

    In an interview, Mr. Medina denied threatening anyone with a gun. He said he requested cash because drivers who had defaulted could not be trusted to write good checks. He said he met drivers at parks and referred to himself as the vehicle apprehension unit because he wanted to hide his identity out of fear he could be targeted by borrowers.

    “You’re taking words from people that are deadbeats and delinquent people. Of course, they don’t want to see me,” he said. “I’m not the bad guy. I’m just the messenger from the bank.”

    Some lenders, especially Signature Bank, have let borrowers out of their loans for one-time payments of about $250,000. But to get that money, drivers have had to find new loans. Mr. Greenbaum, a fleet owner, has provided many of those loans, sometimes at interest rates of up to 15 percent, loan documents and interviews showed.

    New York Commercial Bank said in its statement it also had modified some loans.

    Other drivers lost everything. Most of the more than 950 owners who declared bankruptcy had to forfeit their medallions. Records indicate many were bought by hedge funds hoping for prices to rise. For now, cabs sit unused.

    Jean Demosthenes said his medallion was repossessed by a man with a gun. The man denied that he was armed.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, has asked the city to bail out owners or refund auction purchasers. Others have urged the city to pressure banks to forgive loans or soften terms.

    After reviewing The Times’s findings, Deepak Gupta, a former top official at the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the New York Attorney General’s Office should investigate lenders.

    Mr. Gupta also said the state should close the loophole that let lenders classify medallion deals as business loans, even though borrowers had to guarantee them with everything they owned. Consumer loans have far more disclosure rules and protections.

    “These practices were indisputably predatory and would be illegal if they were considered consumer loans, rather than business loans,” he said.

    Last year, amid eight known suicides of drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans, the city passed a temporary cap on ride-hailing cars, created a task force to study the industry and directed the city taxi commission to do its own analysis of the debt crisis.

    Earlier this year, the Council eliminated the committee overseeing the industry after its chairman, Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, said the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community.” The speaker, Mr. Johnson, said, “The vast majority of the legislative work that we have been looking at has already been completed.”

    In a statement, a council spokesman said the committee’s duties had been transferred to the Committee on Transportation. “The Council is working to do as much as it can legislatively to help all drivers,” the spokesman said.

    As of last week, no one had been appointed to the task force.

    On the last day of 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Hoque brought their third child home from the hospital.

    Mr. Hoque cleared space for the boy’s crib, pushing aside his plastic bags of T-shirts and the fan that cooled the studio. He looked around. He could not believe he was still living in the same room.

    His loan had quickly faltered. He could not make the payments and afford rent, and his medallion was seized. Records show he paid more than $12,000 to Mega, and he said he paid another $550 to Mr. Medina to get it back. He borrowed from friends, promising it would not happen again. Then it happened four more times, he said.

    Mr. Konstantinides, the broker, said in his statement that he met with Mr. Hoque many times and twice modified one of his loans in order to lower his monthly payments. He also said he gave Mr. Hoque extra time to make some payments.

    In all, between the initial fees, monthly payments and penalties after the seizures, Mr. Hoque had paid about $400,000 into the medallion by the beginning of this year.

    But he still owed $915,000 more, plus interest, and he did not know what to do. Bankruptcy would cost money, ruin his credit and remove his only income source. And it would mean a shameful end to years of hard work. He believed his only choice was to keep working and to keep paying.

    His cab was supposed to be his ticket to money and freedom, but instead it seemed like a prison cell. Every day, he got in before the sun rose and stayed until the sky began to darken. Mr. Hoque, now 48, tried not to think about home, about what he had given up and what he had dreamed about.

    “It’s an unhuman life,” he said. “I drive and drive and drive. But I don’t know what my destination is.”

    [Read Part 2 of The Times’s investigation: As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money]

    Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Suzanne Hillinger, Derek M. Norman, Elisha Brown, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Pierre-Antoine Louis and Sameen Amin. Doris Burke and Susan Beachy contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    Follow Brian M. Rosenthal on Twitter at @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Bij hoogleraar B. moesten de vrouwen hakken dragen

    Onderzoek machtsmisbruik en wangedrag Een hoogleraar werd een half jaar geleden gedwongen te vertrekken bij de UvA. Wat speelde er de afgelopen jaren bij de sectie arbeidsrecht? Zijn bijnaam was ‘Een acht voor een nacht’.

    https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2019/05/14/bij-hoogleraar-b-moesten-de-vrouwen-hakken-dragen-a3960238

    #harcèlement_sexuel #violences_sexuelles #université #Pays-Bas #Amsterdam #Université_d'Amsterdam #UvA #impunité #sexisme #Prof_B

    Avec ce commentaire reçu par email :

    NRC est le quotidien du soir (plutôt de droite) qui a fait une enquête. Le type a dû démissionner mais pas de procédure formelle.
    Il a fait un procès pour que le journal ne publie pas son nom et le juge lui a donné raison (la presse ici ne publie que les initiales dans les affaires juridiques). Ils ont mis le titre d’un de ses articles donc l’est facile à retrouver.

    Et aussi reçu par email :

    Everybody, and I mean absolutely everbody, must read it!!!!

    I knew that much was wrong at the UvA, but this goes beyond what even I could imagine. If you read this story, you can label as pure cynicism everything the CvB has said in recent years about the importance of diversity, and taking discrimination and abuse of power seriously. With this article, the hypocrisy of the whole system blows up in our face, including how the top-down hierarchy feeds abuse of power and contributes to a culture in which the powerful are always protected, regardless of their behavior.

    It is UvA’s Weinstein case, and we should all treat it as such.

    Our current CvB has done NOTHING in reaction to this case. They did not properly inform the academic community. WE STILL DON’T KNOW HOW MANY WOMEN WERE HARMED AND EXACTLY IN WHAT WAY! WE STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPEND TO THESE WOMEN AFTERWARDS. They did not demand further investigation into how it was possible that such things could happen for more than 15 years (see last quote).

    They reacted to the recent reports about abuse of power at Dutch universties by simply pointing to our “Vertrouwenspersonen”.

    They did not include anything about complaint procedures in the latest policy papers on diversity.

    The conclusion of this piece about the UvA can only be: Nobody who is abused, humiliated, discriminated against or sexually or otherwise harassed can count on the University of Amsterdam for any kind of protection.

    It is all so utterly ridiculous and depressing.

    Edgar du Perron, who was our hope in 2015, who had the trust of the whole academic community, also contributed to keeping these things under the carpet. Edgar du Perron. If he is part of a system of abuse, we need much more then committees and demonstrations to end it.

    What do people of colour have to endure, if this is normalized behavior towards white women?

    Here are some quotes from the piece that I have translated into English. Enjoy!

    "Women must wear high heels, have long and painted fingernails, B. thinks. To colleagues without make-up he says: “Are you sick?” or “Don’t be so boring. Or are you pregnant?”

    To female colleagues he has said:

    “You should do position 69 some time” (Dutch: “Je zou het eens op z’n Frans doen.”

    “I jerked off above you.”

    “Among students B. had the nickname ’An eight for a night’”

    “A number of colleagues receive porn images and films from him. It leads to unease and tense relationships with some female colleagues who don’t know what to do any more. A complaint about indesirable behaviour toward a male superior leads nowhere.”

    "A female colleague who reports that B. had groped beneath her clothes in her pubic area is not taken seriously by the executives among whom Verhulp. The university physician (bedrijfsarts) and the UvA head of HR are not impressed, either. “It’s your word against his”, they tell her."

    "There is a low willingness to file a complaint among other female colleagues. The fear of B. is simply too big. “I rather quit myself than file a complaint against him”, one of them says."

    “Even the knowledge that B. sends porn pictures to men and women does not incite the superiors who do know about it to take action. This is why they don’t discover that he also spreads audiovisual material of him in an aroused state. The individuals receiving the material sometimes suspect that they are not the only ones, but don’t talk about it. Fear and shame prevail, sometimes because they have fallen for his advances (in the past).”

    “His behavior at the UvA but also at conferences inside and outside the Netherlands leads to a continuous stream of rumors, reaching also the receptions (borrels) of the board of directors of the UvA. But only extremely rarely does anybody call B. to order, not even if somebody has complained. Regardless if the dean or the head of department is called Paul van der Heijden, Jit Peters or Edgar du Perron; no executive calls B. into his office to talk to him about his behavior. Let alone start an investigation.”

    “On wednesday, October 31, the UvA receives the final report. The conclusion: B. is guilty of transgressive behavior en because of him there was a unsafe working climate for a long time. But an army of lawyers of the UvA and of the external partners Boontje Advocaten don’t see the ultimate proof to fire B. immediately.”

    “The university and B. quickly agree that the name of the professor will not appear in the communication of the UvA about his departure. This causes a lot of irritation among many concerned persons. This irritation increases in the following months when it becomes clear that the university does not try to get in touch with former executives or other persons involved in order to learn from the past.”

    • Témoignage d’une enseignante-chercheuse à l’Université d’Amsterdam...
      Elle raconte son expérience. C’était 2013. Elle ne parle que maintenant.
      Et elle accuse l’institution, l’UvA de ne l’avoir pas mise en condition d’en parler, de dénoncer :

      So there’s been a lot of talk at my institution recently about harassment and the lack of response from the institution

      Le thread, que je copie-colle, on ne sait jamais :

      There is now much collective hand ringing, promises of more robust complaints procedures, and we are being urged to report incidents.
      They will be taken seriously. We are told.
      I have never spoken about what happened to me, I am embarrassed about it. Ashamed. It isn’t really that bad I tell myself. It is part of the job I tell myself. I should be able to handle it.
      This is what happened to me and why I am not convinced about the promises of my institution for change. This is my story. My story involves a student.
      It is the end of my first year on a tenure-track job. It is July 2013. We have moved countries and I am happy to finally have a permanent tenure-track job that pays enough to live.
      I am succeeding in academia.
      The only training I have ever received was at my previous UK university where we were always told to never close the door of your office.
      However people seem to do things differently here. There seems to be more of a culture that the students and faculty are equals. We are all adults and can you know sort stuff out. Have a coffee, a chat, reach a compromise.
      It is the end of my first year of my new job. My fourth year of supervising MA dissertations. This is not my first rodeo, I know what I am doing.
      I have one student who has struggled throughout. I have done more than I should. I have given him a question, an outline, a literature review. I have refined his project.
      I think this is what I am supposed to do, rather than say this student is not good enough I feel it is my responsibility to carry him over the line.
      Throughout the process the student has sought my attention for the smallest thing, sending email after email with irrelevant and often intimate information.
      I tell myself this is normal. How things are done here. People are open. They share. This is part of my pastoral role. My colleagues seem very involved with their students too.
      The student hands in his thesis. It is not good enough to pass. I am not surprised by this. The student has the chance to re-write over the summer.
      I invite the student to my office to explain that he has not passed and that he has the possibility to re-write. I am handing him a lifeline. I am saving him and his MA. I think.
      I carefully go through what he has to do to make the thesis passable.
      But I have to tell the student that he cannot have the same amount of input from me.
      The re-write is supposed to be unsupervised and anyway we are going on the first holiday we have had in three years. It is the summer.
      The student gets angry. He blames me. He says it is my fault. He says I haven’t supervised him properly.
      My immediate desire is to do what women are conditioned to do and to make myself small. Make the raised angry voice stop. To please.
      However my sense of professional respect kicks in and I try to calmly explain to the student what the role of a supervisor is.
      I tell him an MA thesis is an independent piece of work. That I have already done more than I should to get him this far.
      The student pushes back, getting angrier and angrier, growing larger and larger, redder and redder, sitting across my desk from me.
      I then say something that I have for years berated myself for saying although I also now know this is what I am conditioned to do, blame myself.
      To try and get my point across about the role of a supervisor I tell this student my job is not to be his mother.
      At this he leaps from his chair and starts screaming down at me that I am his mother. “You are my mother! That is your job! Your job is to be my mother!”
      Over and over again. “You are my mother! That is your job! Your job is to be my mother!”
      “You are my mother! That is your job! Your job is to be my mother!”
      He stands there bellowing down at me sat in my chair. 1.90m tall and 100kg. I ask him to leave.
      “If you are going to behave like this and shout at me I would ask you to leave” I manage to say.

      https://twitter.com/PollyWilkins/status/1134043467863265280?s=19

  • First-ever private border wall built in #New_Mexico

    A private group announced Monday that it has constructed a half-mile wall along a section of the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico, in what it said was a first in the border debate.

    The 18-foot steel bollard wall is similar to the designs used by the Border Patrol, sealing off a part of the border that had been a striking gap in existing fencing, according to We Build the Wall, the group behind the new section.

    The section was also built faster and, organizers say, likely more cheaply than the government has been able to manage in recent years.

    Kris Kobach, a former secretary of state in Kansas and an informal immigration adviser to President Trump, says the New Mexico project has the president’s blessing, and says local Border Patrol agents are eager to have the assistance.

    “We’re closing a gap that’s been a big headache for them,” said Mr. Kobach, who is general counsel for We Build the Wall.


    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/may/27/first-ever-private-border-wall-built-new-mexico
    #privatisation #murs #barrières_frontalières #USA #Mexique #frontières #business #complexe_militaro-industriel
    ping @albertocampiphoto @daphne

    • The #GoFundMe Border Wall Is the Quintessential Trump-Era Grift

      In 2012, historian Rick Perlstein wrote a piece of essential reading for understanding modern conservatism, titled “The Long Con” and published by the Baffler. It ties the right’s penchant for absurd and obvious grifts to the conservative mind’s particular vulnerability to fear and lies:

      The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

      Lying, Perlstein said, is “what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound.” The lies—about abortion factories, ACORN, immigrants, etc.—fund the grifts, and the grifts prey on the psychology that makes the lies so successful.

      Perlstein’s piece is all I could think of when I saw last night’s CNN story about the border wall GoFundMe, which seemingly has actually produced Wall. According to CNN, the group We Build the Wall says it has produced a half-mile of border wall in New Mexico. CNN was invited to watch the construction, where Kris Kobach, who is general counsel for the group, spoke “over the clanking and beeping of construction equipment.”

      #Steve_Bannon, who is naturally involved with the group, told CNN that the wall connects existing fencing and had “tough terrain” that means it was left “off the government list.” The half-mile stretch of wall cost an “estimated $6 million to $8 million to build,” CNN reported.

      CNN also quoted #Jeff_Allen, who owns the property on which the fence was built, as saying: “I have fought illegals on this property for six years. I love my country and this is a step in protecting my country.” According to MSN, Allen partnered with United Constitutional Patriots to build the wall with We Build the Wall’s funding. UCP is the same militia that was seen on video detaining immigrants and misrepresenting themselves as Border Patrol; the Phoenix New Times reported on the “apparent ties” between the UCP and We Build the Wall earlier this month.

      This story is bursting at the seams with an all-star lineup of right-wing scammers. The GoFundMe itself, of course, has been rocked by scandal: After the effort raised $20 million, just $980 million short of the billion-dollar goal, GoFundMe said in January that the funds would be returned, since creator Brian Kolfage had originally pledged that “If for ANY reason we don’t reach our goal we will refund your donation.” But Kolfage quickly figured out how to keep the gravy train going, urging those who had donated to allow their donations to be redirected to a non-profit. Ultimately, $14 million of that $20 million figure was indeed rerouted by the idiots who donated it.

      That non-profit became #We_Build_The_Wall, and like all good conservative con jobs, it has the celebs of the fever swamp attached to it. Not only #Kris_Kobach, a tenacious liar who failed at proving voter fraud is a widespread problem—but also slightly washed-up figures like Bannon, Sheriff David Clarke, Curt Schilling, and Tom Tancredo. All the stars are here!

      How much sleazier could it get? Try this: the main contractor working at the site of New Wall, according to CNN, is Tommy Fisher. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump had “personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” to give the contract for the border wall to the company owned by Fisher, a “GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News,” despite the fact that the Corps of Engineers previously said Fisher’s proposals didn’t meet their requirements.

      Of course, like all good schemes, the need for more money never ceases: On the Facebook page for the group, the announcement that Wall had been completed was accompanied with a plea for fans to “DONATE NOW to fund more walls! We have many more projects lined up!”

      So, what we have is: A tax-exempt non-profit raised $20 million by claiming it would be able to make the federal government build Wall by just giving it the money for it and then, when that didn’t happen, getting most of its donors to reroute that money; then it built a half-mile of wall on private land for as much as $8 million, which went to a firm of a Fox News star whom President Trump adores.

      Perlstein wrote in the aforementioned piece that it’s hard to “specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins,” since “the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself.” The con job was sold through fear: “Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.”

      The Trump era is the inartful, gaudy, brazen peak of this phenomenon. This time, instead of selling fake stem cell cures using the language of Invading Liberals, the grifters are just straight-up selling—for real American dollars—the promise of building a big wall to keep the monsters out.

      https://splinternews.com/the-gofundme-border-wall-is-the-quintessential-trump-er-1835062340

    • Company touted by Trump to build the wall has history of fines, violations

      President Donald Trump appears to have set his sights on a North Dakota construction firm with a checkered legal record to build portions of his signature border wall.
      The family-owned company, #Fisher_Sand_&_Gravel, claims it can build the wall cheaper and faster than competitors. It was among a handful of construction firms chosen to build prototypes of the President’s border wall in 2017 and is currently constructing portions of barrier on private land along the border in New Mexico using private donations.
      It also, however, has a history of red flags including more than $1 million in fines for environmental and tax violations. A decade ago, a former co-owner of the company pleaded guilty to tax fraud, and was sentenced to prison. The company also admitted to defrauding the federal government by impeding the IRS. The former executive, who’s a brother of the current company owner, is no longer associated with it.
      More than two years into his presidency, Trump is still fighting to build and pay for his border wall, a key campaign issue. After failing to get his requests for wall funding passed by a Republican-held Congress during his first two years in office, Trump has met resistance this year from a Democratic-controlled House. His attempt to circumvent Congress through a national emergency declaration has been challenged in the courts.
      On May 24, a federal district judge blocked the administration from using Defense Department funds to construct parts of the wall. The Trump administration has since appealed the block to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and in the interim, asked the district court to allow building to continue pending appeal. The district court denied the administration’s request.
      Despite the uncertainty, construction firms have been competing to win multimillion-dollar contracts to build portions of wall, including Fisher Sand & Gravel.

      Asked by CNN to comment on the company’s history of environmental violations and legal issues, the company said in a statement: “The questions you are asking have nothing to do with the excellent product and work that Fisher is proposing with regard to protecting America’s southern border. The issues and situations in your email were resolved years ago. None of those matters are outstanding today.”
      Catching the President’s attention
      The company was founded in North Dakota in 1952 and operates in several states across the US. It’s enjoyed public support from North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, who as a congressman invited the company’s CEO, Tommy Fisher, to Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018. Cramer has received campaign contributions from Fisher and his wife. A photo of the event shared by Fisher in a company newsletter shows Tommy Fisher shaking Trump’s hand.
      The Washington Post first reported the President’s interest in Fisher. According to the Post, the President has “aggressively” pushed for the Army Corps of Engineers to award a wall contract to Fisher.
      The President “immediately brought up Fisher” during a May 23 meeting in the Oval Office to discuss details of the border wall with various government officials, including that he wants it to be painted black and include French-style doors, according to the Post and confirmed by CNN.
      “The Army Corps of Engineers says about 450 miles of wall will be completed by the end of next year, and the only thing President Trump is pushing, is for the wall to be finished quickly so the American people have the safety and security they deserve,” said Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary.
      A US government official familiar with the meeting tells CNN that the President has repeatedly mentioned the company in discussions he’s had about the wall with the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite.
      Fisher has recently made efforts to raise its public profile, both by upping its lobbying efforts and through repeated appearances on conservative media by its CEO, Tommy Fisher.

      In the past two years, for example, the company’s congressional lobbying expenditures jumped significantly — from $5,000 in 2017 to $75,000 in 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit that tracks lobbying expenditures.

      When asked about Fisher Sand & Gravel’s lobbying, Don Larson, one of Fisher’s registered lobbyists, said: “I am working to help decision makers in Washington become familiar with the company and its outstanding capabilities.”
      Media Blitz
      As part of a media blitz on outlets including Fox News, SiriusXM Patriot and Breitbart News, Tommy Fisher has discussed his support for the border wall and pitched his company as the one to build it. In a March 5 appearance on Fox & Friends, Fisher said that his company could build 234 miles of border wall for $4.3 billion, compared to the $5.7 billion that the Trump administration has requested from Congress.
      Fisher claimed that his firm can work five-to-10 times faster than competitors as a result of its construction process.
      The President has also touted Fisher on Fox News. In an April interview in which he was asked about Fisher by Sean Hannity, Trump said the company was “recommended strongly by a great new senator, as you know, Kevin Cramer. And they’re real. But they have been bidding and so far they haven’t been meeting the bids. I thought they would.”
      Despite the President’s interest, the company has thus far been unsuccessful in obtaining a contract to build the border wall, beyond that of a prototype.

      Earlier this year, Fisher put its name in the running for border wall contracts worth nearly $1 billion. When it lost the bid to Barnard Construction Co. and SLSCO Ltd., Fisher protested the awards over claims that the process was biased. In response, the Army Corps canceled the award. But after a review of the process, the Army Corps combined the projects and granted it to a subsidiary of Barnard Construction, according to an agency spokesperson.
      It’s unclear whether the project will proceed, given the recent decision by a federal judge to block the use of Defense Department funds to build parts of the border wall and the administration’s appeal.
      Fisher, which has a pending lawsuit in the US Court of Federal Claims over the solicitation process, is listed by the Defense Department as being among firms eligible to compete for future border contracts.

      It has moved forward with a private group, We Build the Wall, that is building sections of barrier on private land in New Mexico using private money raised as part of a GoFundMe campaign. Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State who is now general counsel for the group, said a half-mile stretch is nearly complete, at an estimated cost of $6 million to $8 million.

      In a statement, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said Fisher Industries has told them that the company has begun construction on private property along the border “in the approximate area of a USBP border barrier requirement that was not prioritized under current funding.”
      The spokesperson added: “It is not uncommon for vendors” to demonstrate their capabilities using “their own resources,” but the agency goes on to “encourage all interested vendors” to compete for border contracts “through established mechanisms to ensure any construction is carried out under relevant federal authorities and meets USBP operational requirements for border barrier.”
      In responses provided to CNN through Scott Sleight, an attorney working on behalf of the company, Fisher maintained that it’s “committed to working with all appropriate federal government officials and agencies to provide its expertise and experience to help secure America’s southern border.”
      The company says it has “developed a patent-pending bollard fence hanging system that [it] believes allows border fencing to be constructed faster than any contractor using common construction methods.” It also added: “Fisher has been concerned about the procurement procedures and evaluations done by the USACE to date, and hopes these issues can be remedied.”
      Relationship with Sen. Cramer
      A month after attending the 2018 State of the Union address with Cramer, Fisher and his wife, Candice each contributed the $5,400 maximum donation to Cramer’s campaign for the US Senate, Federal Election Commission records show.
      Fisher also donated to several Arizona Republicans in the 2018 election cycle, including giving the $5,400-maximum donation to Martha McSally’s campaign, records show.
      A recent video produced by Fisher Sand & Gravel demonstrating its ability to construct the wall includes a clip of Cramer at the controls of a track-hoe lifting sections of barrier wall into place, saying “this is just like XBOX, baby.” Cramer was joined at the demonstration by a handful of other Republican lawmakers from across the country.

      Cramer has been publicly critical of how the Army Corps has handled its border wall construction work, arguing that it has moved too slowly and expressing frustration over how it has dealt with Fisher. In an interview with a North Dakota TV station, Cramer said that he believes the corps “made a miscalculation in who they chose over Fisher” and that the company had been “skunked so to speak.” Cramer added that Fisher “remains a pre-qualified, high level, competitor.”

      In an interview with CNN, Cramer said that the company has come up in conversations he has had with administration officials, including the President and the head of the Army Corps, but while the senator said that he would “love if they got every inch of the project,” he added that he has “never advocated specifically for them.”
      "Every time someone comes to meet with me, whether it’s (Acting Defense Secretary) Shanahan, General Semonite, even with Donald Trump, they bring up Fisher Industries because they assume that’s my thing," Cramer said.
      “One of the things I’ve never done is said it should be Fisher,” Cramer said. “Now, I love Fisher. I’d love if they got every inch of the project. They’re my constituents, I don’t apologize for that. But my interest really is more in the bureaucratic process.”
      According to an administration official familiar with the situation, Cramer sent information about Fisher to the President’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who then passed it along to the Army Corps of Engineers for their consideration. The source tells CNN that Kushner was not familiar with the company prior to getting information about them from Cramer.
      Cramer said he does recall passing along information about the company to Kushner, but that he did not know what Kushner did with the information.
      On May 24, Cramer told a North Dakota radio station that the President has asked him to examine the process of how federal border wall projects are awarded.
      “We’re going to do an entire audit,” Cramer said. “I’ve asked for the entire bid process, and all of the bid numbers.” Cramer told CNN the President said he wanted the wall built for the “lowest, best price, and it’s also quality, and that’s what any builder should want.”
      Asked about aspects of the company’s checkered legal record, Cramer said “that level of scrutiny is important, but I would hope the same scrutiny would be put on the Corps of Engineers.”
      Environmental violations
      Though its corporate headquarters are in North Dakota, Fisher has a sizable footprint in Arizona, where it operates an asphalt company as well as a drilling and blasting company. It’s there that the company has compiled an extensive track record of environmental violations.
      From 2007 to 2017, Fisher Sand & Gravel compiled more than 1,300 air-quality violations in Maricopa County, culminating in the third highest settlement ever received by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department, according to Bob Huhn, a department spokesperson. That’s a record number of violations for any air-quality settlement in the county, Huhn said. The settlement totaled more than $1 million, though the department received slightly less than that following negotiations, Huhn said.
      Most of the violations came from an asphalt plant that the company was running in south Phoenix that has since closed. While the plant was still running, the City of Phoenix filed 469 criminal charges against the company from August to October of 2009, according to a city spokesperson.
      According to a 2010 article in the Arizona Republic, Fisher reached an agreement with Phoenix officials to close the plant in 2010. As part of the deal, fines were reduced from $1.1 million to an estimated $243,000 and all criminal charges were reduced to civil charges.
      Mary Rose Wilcox was a member of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors at the time the city and county were fighting Fisher over the asphalt plant, which was located in her district. “They tried to persuade us they were good guys since they were a family-owned company. But they were spreading noxious fumes into a residential area,” Wilcox said. “We tried to work with them, but their violations were just so blatant.”
      Michael Pops, a community activist who lived in the area around the plant, remembers fighting with Fisher for six years before the plant finally shut down. “The impact they had on this community was devastating,” Pops said, adding many low-income residents living near the asphalt plant were sickened from the fumes the plant emitted.
      The company has also racked up more than 120 violations with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from 2004 until as recently as last summer, according to the department.
      In 2011, Fisher agreed to a Consent Judgement with ADEQ over numerous air quality violations the company had committed. As part of that settlement, Fisher agreed to pay $125,000 in civil penalties, and that it would remain in compliance with state air quality standards. Within two years Fisher was found to be in violation of that agreement and was forced to pay an additional $500,000 in fines, according to the state’s attorney general’s office.
      Legal trouble
      Internally, the company has also confronted issues.
      In 2011, Fisher Sand & Gravel agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a sexual discrimination and retaliation suit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit charged that the company violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it “subjected two women workers to egregious verbal sexual harassment by a supervisor and then fired one of them after she repeatedly asked the supervisor to stop harassing her and complained to a job superintendent.”
      The settlement required Fisher to provide anti-discrimination training to its employees in New Mexico and review its policies on sexual harassment.
      Micheal Fisher, a former co-owner of Fisher and Tommy’s brother, was sentenced to prison in 2009 for tax fraud, according to the Justice Department. Fisher pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding the [Internal Revenue Service], four counts of aiding in the filing of false federal tax returns for FSG and four counts of filing false individual tax returns,” according to a Justice Department release.
      The company also admitted responsibility for defrauding the US by impeding the IRS, according to the DOJ. Citing a long standing policy of not commenting on the contracting process, the Army Corps declined to comment on whether Fisher’s history factored into its decision not to award Fisher a contract.

      https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/31/politics/fisher-sand-and-gravel-legal-history-border-wall/index.html

    • Private US-Mexico border wall ordered open by gov’t, fights back and is now closed again

      The privately funded portion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall is now fully secure and closed again after one of its gates had been ordered to remain open until disputes about waterway access could be resolved.

      “Our border wall & gate are secure again and we still have not had a single breach. I want to thank the IBWC for acting swiftly and we look forward to working with you on our future projects,” triple amputee Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage posted to Twitter on Tuesday night.

      Kolfage created We Build The Wall Inc., a nonprofit that is now backed by former Trump Administration Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The group crowd-funded more than $22 million in order to privately build a border wall and then sell it to the U.S. government for $1.

      A portion of that wall has been constructed in Texas for between $6 and $8 million. The 1-mile-long wall is located on private property near El Paso, Texas, and Sunland Park, New Mexico.

      However, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) had ordered a 33-foot gate within the private border wall to remain open – not locked and closed – over a waterway access issue, according to BuzzFeed News. The IBCW addresses waterway issues between the U.S. and Mexico.

      “This is normally done well in advance of a construction project,” IBWC spokesperson Lori Kuczmanski said. “They think they can build now and ask questions later, and that’s not how it works.”

      BuzzFeed reported that the IBWC said the gate “had blocked officials from accessing a levee and dam, and cut off public access to a historic monument known as Monument One, the first in a series of obelisks that mark the U.S.–Mexico border from El Paso to Tijuana.”

      By Tuesday night, the IBWC said the gate would remain locked at night and issued a statement.

      “The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) will lock the privately-owned gate on federal property at night effective immediately due to security concerns,” it said.

      The statement continues:

      The USIBWC is continuing to work with We Build the Wall regarding its permit request. Until this decision, the private gate was in a locked open position. We Build the Wall, a private organization, built a gate on federal land in Sunland Park, N.M., near El Paso, Texas, without authority, and then locked the gate closed on June 6, 2019. The private gate blocks a levee road owned by the U.S. Government. After repeated requests to unlock and open the private gate, the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), accompanied by two uniformed law enforcement officers from the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, removed the private lock, opened the gate, and locked the gate open pending further discussions with We Build the Wall. The gate was also opened so that USIBWC employees can conduct maintenance and operations at American Dam.

      The USIBWC did not authorize the construction of the private gate on federal property as announced on We Build the Wall’s Twitter page. The USIBWC is not charged with securing other fences or gates as reported by We Build the Wall. The international border fences are not on USIBWC property. The USIBWC did not open any other gates in the El Paso area as erroneously reported. Other gates and the border fence are controlled by other federal agencies.

      When the proper documentation is received for the permit, USIBWC will continue to process the permit application.

      Before the statement had been released, Kolfage posted to Twitter.
      https://a

      mericanmilitarynews.com/2019/06/private-us-mexico-border-wall-ordered-open-by-intl-group-later-closed-locked-after-security-concerns/

  • Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/27/us/politics/trump-climate-science.html

    Mr. Reilly, the head of the Geological Survey, who does not have a background in climate change science, characterized the changes as an attempt to prepare more careful, accurate reports. “We’re looking for answers with our partners and to get statistical significance from what we understand,” he said.

    Yet scientists said that by eliminating the projected effects of increased carbon dioxide pollution after 2040, the Geological Survey reports would present an incomplete and falsely optimistic picture of the impact of continuing to burn unlimited amounts of coal, oil and gasoline.

    #climato_sceptique #trump #climat #climate_change #science #épistémologie_politique #controverse

  • #Facebook busts Israeli campaign to disrupt #elections in African, Asian and Latin American nations - Israel News - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/facebook-busts-israel-based-campaign-to-disrupt-elections-in-african-asian-

    Dozens of accounts, pages and groups operated by private firm peddling #fake_news were deleted, tech giant says

    [...]

    Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters that the tech giant had purged 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts. Many were linked to the Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and #lobbying firm that boasts of its social media skills and ability to “change reality.”

  • Pas d[e nouvelles]’ hypothèses sur l’origine des attaques (dont seule celle de l’attaque du pipeline par drones est revendiquée par les Houthis), mais l’article soulève le point commun qu’il s’agit dans les 2 cas de menaces sur une voie de contournement du détroit d’Hormuz.

    Constat qui donne implicitement une réponse unique à la question cui bono ?… Autrement dit, toujours sans répondre explicitement (!), qui a tout récemment menacé de fermer le détroit et… se porterait bien d’affaiblir les voies alternatives ?…

    Tanker attacks near UAE expose weaknesses in Gulf Arab security - Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-oil-usa-iran-security-analysis-idUSKCN1SL1BD

    More than three days on, little information has been provided on where the ships were when they were attacked, what sort of weapon was used, and who did it.

    Navigational data indicated at least some of the ships may have been within nine nautical miles of the shore, well within UAE territorial sea. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister has said at least one of them was further out, in the UAE’s exclusive economic zone where international law largely applies.

    Reuters and other journalists taken on a tour off the Fujairah coast saw a hole at the waterline in the hull of a Norwegian ship, with the metal torn inwards. A Saudi tanker they viewed showed no sign of major damage.

    Maritime security sources told Reuters that images suggest the damage was likely caused by limpet mines attached close to the waterline with less than 4 kg of explosives. One source said the level of coordination and use of mines were likely to rule out militant groups such as al Qaeda.

    It’s not those guys seeking publicity, it’s someone who wants to make a point without necessarily pointing in any given direction,” said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East and Africa editor for Jane’s Defence Weekly. “It’s below the threshold (for war).

    Jean-Marc Rickli, head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, said the attacks could be a message that Iran has means to disrupt traffic.

    Saudi state oil company Aramco said output and exports were not disrupted by the attack on the pumping stations, but it temporarily shut the East-West pipeline to evaluate its condition.

    Both attacks targeted alternative routes for oil to bypass Hormuz. Fujairah port is a terminal of the crude pipeline from Abu Dhabi’s Habshan oilfields. The Saudi East-West line takes crude from eastern fields to Yanbu port, north of Bab al-Mandeb.

  • Attaques de Fujaïrah, le monde de l’assurance maritime réfléchit…

    London Marine Insurers to Meet After Ship Attacks in Middle East – gCaptain
    https://gcaptain.com/london-marine-insurers-to-meet-after-ship-attacks-in-middle-east

    London’s marine insurance market will meet on Thursday to assess whether it needs to change the risk level for vessels in the Gulf after an attack on ships off the United Arab Emirates earlier this week, a senior official said on Wednesday.

    Such a move could lead to an increase in insurance premiums.
    […]
    At the moment there are not many facts or verifiable information (about the attacks on Sunday),” said [Neil Roberts, head of marine underwriting at Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA), which represents the interests of all underwriting businesses in London’s Lloyd’s market]..

    There is no decision yet on whether to change the listed areas of enhanced risk. There are a number of options, which include no change.

    He said any changes would take seven days to come into effect.
    […]
    It has not updated the list of high risk areas since June 2018. Its guidance is watched closely and influences underwriters’ considerations over insurance premiums.

    Some oil and shipping companies said they would have to alter their routes or take precautions near Fujairah since Sunday’s attacks.

    Japanese shipping group Nippon Yusen has already decided to refrain from sending tankers to Fujairah for bunkering, maintenance or crew swaps except for emergencies, a company spokesman said.

    Others such as Denmark’s Maersk Tankers told Reuters they were monitoring developments closely, with no impact on their operations in the area.